In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised homosexuality and ordered the government to “reduce and finally eliminate the stigma” against the LGBTQ community.
Now, nearly five years later, at least three ministries deny responsibility for the welfare of homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual individuals.
The Deccan Era obtained, under the Right to Information Act, the responses of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in which each ministry stated that the subject did not fall under its jurisdiction. Akhilesh Godi, one of the petitioners who challenged Section 377, filed the RTI.
“We are also of the opinion that the Union of India should take all necessary steps to ensure that this judgement is widely disseminated through the public media, including television, radio, print, and online media, at regular intervals, and initiate programmes to reduce and eventually eliminate the stigma associated with such individuals. Above all, all government officials, including and especially police officials, and other officers of the Union of India and the States be given periodic sensitisation and awareness training regarding the plight of such individuals in light of the observations contained in this judgement,” the Supreme Court had said in its order.
In response to an RTI request in April 2021, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stated that it had not taken any steps to publicise the issue.
“The Department of Legal Affairs has seemingly not issued any instructions to Prasar Bharati. In addition, the direction is addressed to the Union of India’s Ministry of Law and Justice. This Ministry is responsible for carrying out the Court’s directives, including dissemination of information through the public media, including television, radio, print, and online outlets. Therefore, there is no information accessible at Prasar Bharati,” the response stated.
According to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal ministry for the “welfare of Transgender Persons” as of 2016. However, the issue of homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual individuals is not addressed in the Rules.
In the Section 377 case, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued on behalf of the Centre that the government would defer to the court’s “wisdom” The Centre did not defend the constitutionality of the provision criminalising homosexuality in an affidavit filed by the Ministry of the Interior.
However, in its response in July 2021, the Home Ministry stated that states would be responsible for implementing the apex court’s directives. “In this regard, it is to be noted that the Criminal Laws are on the Concurrent list of the Indian Constitution and are administered by the states,” the ministry said.
The Law Ministry, the respondent in the 2018 case Navtej Singh Johar v. Ministry of Law and Justice, stated in its response that it had nothing to do with the case.
“The matter in the aforementioned case before the supreme court does not appear to directly involve this Ministry/Department; however, the case’s title identifies the Ministry as the primary respondent among other respondents. It is feasible that a different ministry would have defended this case, but the name of this ministry has been misspelt in the title,” the Ministry of Law stated.