NEW DELHI: Five bright, academically brilliant people. One cause. The discrimination against the LGBTQ community brought these passionate young crusaders together in their fight against Section 377, which criminalises gay sex, and took them all the way to the doorstep of the Supreme Court. Though only one argued the case in the courtroom, the other four were involved in backroom research and made significant contributions to the arguments. Advocate Neeha Nagpal, 30, says she took up the case for humanity. An alumna of the University of Warwick and a specialist in commercial law terms, she sees the assignment as a personal fight for justice.
“It is not just a case for me but also a personal fight as a lot of childhood friends are victims to this kind of discrimination. I personally feel that society at large should now accept the ‘change’ and give every individual equal rights as enshrined in the Indian constitution,” Nagpal says, and adds that she has her fingers crossed as she awaits the verdict, which was reserved last week by the Supreme Court. Recalling how she landed up with the case, advocate Pritha Srikumar, 36, says has represented 20 IIT graduates and alumni who belong to the LGBTQ community.
“I think sexual orientation of every individual is natural and nothing to be shocked about. The whole subject struck a chord with me. I wanted to fight for fundamental rights of people who have been discriminated,” Srikumar says. She is highly experienced in civil and commercial disputes and conducted litigation arising out of commercial contracts. Known for her feisty attitude and legal acumen, advocate Maneka Guruswamy, 42, has argued at length in the Supreme Court and showed the five-judge constitution bench the economic importance of the community in the world.
An academic marvel, with degrees from Harvard, Oxford and NLSIU, Bangalore, Guruswamy says, “It is my belief in equality for all that made me take up this case. I always strive to fight for justice and constitutional rights.”
“Our lives have passed by, but the business of life includes the recognition of equal citizenship. To be loved by their court, their country and their fellow citizens, only then will they be able to build a country in an unafraid fashion,” she asserts. Recalling her association with the case since 2012, Colombia Law School alumna and advocate Arundhanti Katju, 36, says that “It is one case which I personally feel should reach its logical conclusion a lot of people in the community face harassment day-in and day-out. When I decided to be part of the team I came in touch with a lot of people belonging to this section and was shocked by the treatment meted out to them and hence I decided to be a part of this team.”
“Discrimination is not tolerable by me hence this was not a usual case,” says the lone male member in the team, advocate Saurabh Kirpal, 47. “The lives of many people are involved. Just because of the criminalisation of this section, a large number of people are not coming up. There is a constant threat to their lives. It is high time now to end the harassment.”
Countries where gay sex is legal
Australia, The Netherlands, US, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, Argentina, Denmark, Uruguay, France, Brazil, England, Scotland, Finland, Luxemberg, Ireland, Greenland, Columbia, New Zealand, Germany and Malta
The high-profile petitioners
There are 35 petitions before the court in the Supreme Court demanding that Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex, be repealed
High-profile petitioners include Gautam Yadav, programme officer with NGO Humsafar Trust; chef Ritu Dalmia; Keshav Suri, executive director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality group