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Zero Discrimination Day: Role of Indian Judiciary in Removing Discrimination

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Inequality is growing for more than 70% of the global population, exacerbating the risk of division and hampering economic and social development. And COVID-19 is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest—even as new vaccines against COVID-19 are becoming available, there is great inequality in accessing them.
With an aim to address this inequality, this year, on Zero Discrimination Day (observed on March 1st annually), UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world.
Judiciary in India has been very active in fighting against discrimination in the country. It has not only laid out landmark judgments that have highlighted the wisdom of the judges, but has also gone beyond its role as a judiciary to ensure delivery of complete justice. Following are some of the cases in which Indian judiciary has played a significant role in fighting discrimination in the country.

Vishakha and Others v. State of Rajasthan

This case is considered to be a landmark case, and its judgment served as a procedure established by law in the absence of a formal law to fight against sexual discrimination against women at workplaces. The case was being fought by women in an effort to end sexual violence and assault on them at workplaces. The outrage was triggered by the gang rape suffered by Dhanwari Devi by angry men because of her role in trying to stop a child marriage.
In the judgement, the Supreme Court said that the right of working women under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution should be protected and guaranteed. Since there was no law at the time to deal with sexual offences in workplaces, the court gave what is known as ‘Vishakha Guidelines’ which served as a procedure to be followed in cases of sexual offences, till the POSH act came into force.

Priya Ramani Vs. MJ Akbar Case

In the recently highlighted case between the former journalist Priya Ramani and MJ Akbar, the former was acquitted by the courts for speaking up and participating in the globally popular #MeToo movement. Priya Ramani had alleged MJ Akbar of committing sexual misconduct when she was called for an interview in 1993 while speaking up in the ensuing #MeToo movement. The latter had slapped a defamation suit against the former journalist at this, before resigning from the Union cabinet in 2018. The Supreme Court of India recently acquitted Priya Ramani in the case claiming that a person’s ‘Right to reputation’ cannot be protected against a woman’s ‘Right to life’. The Supreme Court of India with this judgment has won the trust of millions of women in the country.

Allahabad High Court Judgement in Navtej Singh Johar Case

In a significant ruling, the Allahabad High Court recently said, it is wrong to remove an employee from a job due to his or her homosexuality. The High Court said sexual orientation is a private matter of a person and is protected by the right to privacy.
The Navtej Singh Johar case is related to a home guard posted in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. He had been removed from his service for being homosexual. The Allahabad High Court has reversed the decision to sack the home guard, restoring his employment under the government.
The home guard had been sacked after a video showing him with his partner went viral in 2019. The district commandant of the home guard fired him from his job in June 2019.
During the hearing, the district commandant of the home guard department defended the sacking, saying he was thrown out of service due to unethical sexual activities.