The petition concerns Sonu Krishna Jena, a transman who had been in a consensual relationship with his romantic partner Rashmi (original name withheld) since 2017 and chose to be in a live-in relationship together at their apartment in Bhubaneshwar.
On 9th April 2020, Rashmi’s mother and uncle (the Respondents in this case) came to the couple’s apartment and forcibly took her away. Thereafter, Sonu Jena filed a complaint before two local police authorities, (the Opposite Parties in the case) but received no response. Meanwhile, he learned that Rashmi’s family was forced into an arranged marriage with someone else and therefore filed this application for habeas corpus writ before this Court. Following said application, on 17th August 2020, the Court directed the SP of Jajpur to ascertain the wishes of Rashmi on whether she wishes to remain in a relationship with Sonu of her own free will. Despite Rashmi categorically stating that she wanted to re-join her life with Sonu Jena without any further delay, the matter was deferred by another 3 days and is now considered before this Court.
ISSUE & DECISION:
The issue before the Court was whether Sonu Jena has the right of self-determination of sex/gender and also the right to have a live-in relationship with a person of his choice even though such person may belong to the same gender (sic) as the petitioner. The court relied on the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India decision and unequivocally upheld the right of self-determination of gender as an integral part of personal autonomy and self-expression. Significantly, the Court also quoted the Yogyakarta Principles from NALSA to establish the universal human rights of all individuals as inviolable. The Court also relied on the Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India decision to assert that the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations is violative of Articles 14, 15, 19 & 21 of the Indian Constitution and that LGBT persons are entitled to the full range of constitutional rights, chief among these liberties being the right to choose one’s partner.
Thus, the Court unequivocally upheld that the couple has the right to decide their sexual preferences including the right to stay as live-in partners as consenting adults. Consequently, the Court allowed the petition and directed that Rashmi’s mother should not prevent them from living together and granted the couple police protection.
This judgment is extremely important as the first judicial decision in India that explicitly recognizes the rights of trans persons to enter into a live-in relationship with the partner of their choice, regardless of the “gender” of the partner. It serves as a strong precedent in protecting rights of cohabitation and partnership for LGBTQIA+ individuals and bolsters the decisions in NALSA & Navtej.