6 Judgments That Paved The Way For LGBTQIA+ Rights In India

The marriage equality hearing reminds us of the significant fight that the LGBTQIA+ community led for decades. Their ask? To be accepted for who they are & be recognised as couples and families in the eyes of law. 

Priyanka Chakrabarty
Updated On
New Update
Celebration Of Non-Binary Love, Definition Of Woman, Centre Opposes Same-Sex Marriage, Gender-Affirming Care, Separate Toilets For Transgender Persons, Anti-LGBTQ Legislation

Image source: VOX

The last decade, from 2010 onward has been the decade for uplifting LGBTQIA+ rights. There has been a visibility of LGBTQIA+ members in the public sphere and the courts asking and demanding for rights. There have been judgments that paved the way for the community's rights in India. The judiciary, both the High Courts and the Supreme Court, have been receptive to the issues raised by the NGO groups, groups consisting of members of LGBTQIA+ members and allies.


This has resulted in some landmark judgements in the last decade which culminated in the reading down of Section 377. In a post-377 judicial landscape, the Courts continue to uphold the rights, especially in the arena of Transgender rights.

Let us have a look at some of the judgements which have been instrumental in upholding and even reshaping the discourse around these rights in India.

2023 Same-Sex Marriage Judgment 

As we closely watch the Supreme Court on October 17 for the much-anticipated and long-awaited verdict to provide legal recognition to same-sex marriages, it reminds us of the significant fight that members of the LGBTQIA+ community have led for decades now. Their ask? To be recognised as couples and families in the eyes of law. The ongoing hearing at the SC regarding the petition to legalise same-sex marriages (also wholly referred to as Marriage Equality) in India comes after the transformational ruling of 2018 that overturned Section 377.

What Is The Case?

As reported by The Indian Express, the discussions on the issue started on April 18, and the Supreme Court clarified that it would not delve into individual marriage laws while considering the requests for legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

The court emphasised that the concept of a union between a man and a woman, as defined in the Special Marriage Act, is not strictly based on physical characteristics. Some of the petitioners urged the Supreme Court to utilise its authority to encourage society to recognise such partnerships, which would enable LGBTQIA++ individuals to live a dignified life.

Conversely, the Central government expressed that issuing a constitutional proclamation on this matter might not be an appropriate course of action because the court would be unable to anticipate, understand, and manage its consequences. Additionally, the government informed the panel that among the responses from seven states on this issue, the administrations of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam had voiced their opposition to the legal recognition of such unions.

A panel of five judges of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had concluded its deliberations on May 11, after an extensive 10-day hearing, and had reserved its judgment on the petitions.

Naz Judgement, 2009


Naz Foundation v Government of NCT Delhi or as it is popularly known as Naz Judgement is a 2009 judgement by the Delhi High Court. In this judgement for the first time Delhi High Court declared Section 377 to be unconstitutional.

Naz an NGO based in Delhi which filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Delhi High Court and claimed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be unconstitutional. They have been at the forefront in the battle of decriminalisation. In 2009 they successfully got the Courts to declare Section 377 to be unconstitutional which violates Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution.

NALSA Judgement, 2014

2013 was a very dark year for rights in India in general and LGBTQIA rights in particular because the Supreme Court of India delivered Suresh Kumar Koushal vs Union of India where homosexuality was re-criminalized. The darkness was short-lived because the National Legal Services Authority vs the Union of India or NALSA judgement was delivered by the Supreme Court.

For the first time in legal history, Transgender people were recognised as citizens of this country, all the Fundamental Rights were extended to them and they were given the identity of Third Gender. This case continues to be the landmark case for Transgender Rights in this country. The court laid a comprehensive set of guidelines that every State must follow to bring Transgenders into public spheres and provide remedies for their marginalisation.

Puttaswamy Judgement, 2017


Justice (Retd) K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India or Puttaswamy judgement as it is popularly known is an integral judgement as it held the Right to Privacy to be integral. Article 21 of the Constitution of India which grants us the Right to Life and Liberty was also expanded to include the Right to Privacy.

The rRght to Privacy was also extended to every individual irrespective of gender and sex. Recognition of privacy for members of the LGBTQIA community as an inalienable grants them autonomy and protection from State action while exercising their right to choose their partners.  Hence, this judgement along with the NALSA judgement became the precursor to the reading down of Section 377 in 2018.

Navtej Johar, 2018

Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India or Navtej Johar, as it is popularly known, is the seminal judgement that decriminalized homosexuality in India. This judgement delivered by the Supreme Court of India is a result of multiple Public Interest Litigation that have been filed by different groups of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Bench struck down Section 377 to the extent that it criminalized sex between two consenting adults. The Court upheld the provision that criminalises non –non-consensual acts with children or animals. The Supreme Court further held that Section 377 violates Articles 14, 15, 16 and 19 1 (a) of the Constitution of India. It recognized that every individual irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation has the right to live with dignity, and autonomy and make it personal and private without State interference.

Arun Kumar Judgement, 2019


Arun Kumar v Inspector General of Registration, Tamil Nadu is a case from the Madras High Court which reads into the category of brides to include transwomen. Under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 the definition of marriage only includes men and women. This judgement expands the category of women to include transgender people to identify as women to be brides as well.

It takes the clause of self-identification as has been mentioned in the NALSA judgement, where a person can identify as any gender identity without needing a State or external body to verify their identity. Evolving this clause, it says if an individual wishes to identify as a transwoman then they have the constitutional right. This, among many other cases, lays the foundation for marriages within the LGBTQIA+ community broadening the right to marry.

Why It Matters?

The battle for equality, recognition and, citizenship for the queer bodies has been long and still ongoing. However, judicial recognition to address rights and provide remedies matters for the project of equality and dignity. These judgements have been seminal in shaping the narrative of rights and recognition for the LGBTQIA+ community. All the rights that we know of today and associate with the community come from these judgements. These judgements are a result of a fight that has been waged for over two decades now by members of the community, NGOs, lawyers and all civil societies.

Also Read: We Need To Be Represented By Our Own: Harish Iyer On Joining Politics


Section 377 lgbt rights in india india lgbt judgements