It's a victory for secular democracy in India.
In a landmark judgement, the Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah of the Delhi High Court, along with Dr. Justice S. Muralidhar, ruled in favor of the petitioner, Naz Foundation, and held that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in its current form violated the constitutional provisions of Article 21, Article 14, and Article 15, "insofar it criminalize[d] consensual sexual acts of adults in private". The ruling brings cheers not only to the LGBT community, but also to anyone who believes that liberty and equality before law cannot be held hostage in perpetuity to irrational beliefs and values.
The justices dismissed the government's arguments that homosexual conduct must be construed as unnatural and antihetical to the social traditions, and its dubious concerns about the spreading of diseases, as contrary to scientific findings and historical facts. Most importantly, the High Court, in holding Section 377 as in violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens, upheld the primacy of constitutional morality over popular morality:
Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individual's fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things, constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view...
The nature of the provision of Section 377 IPC and its purpose is to criminalise private conduct of consenting adults which causes no harm to anyone else. It has no other purpose than to criminalise conduct which fails to conform with the moral or religious views of a section of society. The discrimination severely affects the rights and interests of homosexuals and deeply impairs their dignity.
Quoting from the Constitutional Assembly Debates, the Justices wrote:
While moving the Draft Constitution in the Assembly [Constitutional Assembly Debates: Official Reports Vol.VII: November 4, 1948, page 38], Dr. Ambedkar quoted Grote, the historian of Greece, who had said: "The diffusion of constitutional morality, not merely among the majority of any community but throughout the whole, is an indispensable condition of government at once free and peaceable; since even any powerful and obstinate minority may render the working of a free institution impracticable without being strong enough to conquer the ascendancy for themselves."
After quoting Grote, Dr. Ambedkar added: "... The question is, can we presume such a diffusion of constitutional morality? Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic."
Well, it has been more than 60 years since then. I sincerely hope that the people of India have had the time to learn what it means to be a democracy, and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government pays heed to Dr. Ambedkar's admonition, if and when the religious fundamentalists challenge the judgment in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, it's time to open the champagne bottle. Here's to Justices Shah and Muralidhar!