Marginalisation happens to women, LGBTQ community too: Justice Chandrachud

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Monday said marginalisation not only occurs for members of lower castes, but also for particular genders or identities with specific sexual orientation.

Delivering the 13th B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture on “Conceptualising Marginalisation: Agency, Assertion, and Personhood”, he said that marginalisation not only occurs to members from the lower castes or specific races but to those who belong to a particular gender or identify with a specific sexual orientation or are in other ways different from what is considered to be the “norm”.

He said the top court saw it with respect to women when it had to adjudicate two cases in order to decide whether women officers could be granted Permanent Commission in the armed forces.

“In Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya and Lt. Col. Nitisha v. Union of India, this Court found that the armed forces were willing to overlook all military records and meritorious achievements of women officers when it came to granting them Permanent Commission, by effectively reducing their identity to being women,” he said.

He added similarly, in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the top court noted that one of the effects of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was to reduce the identity of all members of the LGBTQ community to their sexual relationships alone. “While our judgments in all these cases have tried to improve the legal status of these groups, yet their impact on the society continues to be limited. Members of LGBTQ community are still looked at with suspicion by the society, many a times their own parents,” he added.

Justice Chandrachud said: “And even with the Permanent Commission having been granted to the women officers, our Court continues to hear applications that seek to delay the process.”

He emphasized that having now spoken about the effect that group identity has on an individual’s personhood, “we must ask ourselves what happens when an individual wishes to be considered only as who she is, and not as a member of a marginalised group?”

“Indeed, many members of the LGTBQ community continue to remain ‘closeted’ due to the fear of the discrimination they may face. However, does our society allow every individual such a freedom, especially when their membership in a group is impossible to hide?”