Remembering Ashok Desai And His Service To The LGBTQI Community

first_imgColumnsRemembering Ashok Desai And His Service To The LGBTQI Community Live Law News Networks17 April 2020 10:37 PMShare This – xIn 2006, the LGBTI community got news that Naz Foundation’s challenge to the constitutionality of section 377 was likely to be heard by the Delhi High Court sometime soon.When Naz Foundation’s petition (Naz Foundation v Union of India And Others, WP(C) 7455 of 2001) had been filed in December 2001 by Lawyers’ Collective’s team led by Snr. Adv. Anand Grover, there were few who believed that…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginIn 2006, the LGBTI community got news that Naz Foundation’s challenge to the constitutionality of section 377 was likely to be heard by the Delhi High Court sometime soon.When Naz Foundation’s petition (Naz Foundation v Union of India And Others, WP(C) 7455 of 2001) had been filed in December 2001 by Lawyers’ Collective’s team led by Snr. Adv. Anand Grover, there were few who believed that an Indian Court could be persuaded to recognize the rights of sexuality minorities anytime soon. (Bear in mind that even the US Supreme Court’s Lawrence v Texas ruling holding sodomy laws unconstitutional came only in 2003.) Lawyers’ Collective and Mr Grover, however, had already been a few years at the forefront of the fight against section 377 – in seminars, training programmes, meetings and conferences – before filing the petition, and it was with this experience that they bet on holding the constitutional courts to the promise of the constitution. Voices Against 377 (‘Voices’, for short), a coalition of 12 progressive groups (working in Child Rights, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Rights of Persons who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Hijra and Kothi) who believed that 377 must go, contacted Mr Grover and team about the wisdom of joining the litigation. They were immediately welcomed; it could only help the cause if such a broad coalition of serious like-minded organizations threw their weight behind the case. There was a problem though; it had been more than 5 years since the petition’s filing, pleadings had been completed, and the matter was ripe for argument. It was very possible, if not likely, that an attempt to intervene at this stage would be refused for having come too late. Senior Advocate, Ashok Desai, former Attorney General for India and Solicitor General of India, leading light of the bar, was requested to represent Voices in its application seeking impleadment. It was a matter of great fortune that he agreed, especially since it would require him to leave a packed Supreme Court schedule to travel to the High Court for the hearings. Mr Desai had a reputation for fastidiousness that we quickly learned was well deserved. He insisted, before proceeding with the matter, on speaking with Mr Grover and having his views not just to settle strategy but because he acknowledged the centrality of Lawyers’ Collective/ Naz Foundation to what was being attempted in court. It was a gesture in keeping with the bar’s finest traditions of collegial courtesy. Mr Desai’s fastidiousness also meant that after we had taken him through all our material – covering a vast swathe of evolving criminal jurisprudence – he reached for his copy of Russel on Crimes – a legendary if arcane commentary on Criminal Law only the most academic of law practitioners would trouble. This deep dive into criminal jurisprudence had to be finally halted only because, as Mr Desai reminded us, there were more pressing legal questions to be attended to, such as the Code of Civil procedure and the law on impleadment. On those issues, where a lesser Counsel might have rested content in the Supreme Court’s relaxation of standing in matters of public interest, Mr Desai did not. He called for a battered, much-thumbed diary/notebook – the kind used only by Senior Counsels and munims of a certain vintage – to pull out citations that our sophisticated web searches had missed. With that level of preparation, the impleadment hearing itself was a relative shoo-in. After Mr Desai had gently suggested to the Bench in Court 1 of the Delhi High Court the importance of the issue and what Voices would bring to the hearings, our fears of being shut out for having come too late or for duplicating the petitioner’s contentions, evaporated. Mr Desai had got us a foot in the door. It was this foot in the door that would allow Voices at final hearing to place before read more