Bombay High Court asks if State can frame guidelines against harassment of LGBTQIA+ persons by family, police

In response, the Advocate General of Maharashtra said that he would get instructions on whether a committee can be formed by the State to frame such guidelines.

The Bombay High Court was told by the Maharashtra government on Friday that it will consider forming a committee to come up with guidelines to sensitize the police while dealing with the LGBTQIA+ community.

The proposal was mooted after a division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Gauri Godse opined that the State should come up with guidelines on how police should handle ‘missing person’ or ‘kidnapping’ complaints by family members against lesbian or gay couples.

“We want the State to come up with something for police to handle cases about missing or kidnapping complaints against lesbian or gay couples and granting them protection. This is the larger issue. Since we are dealing with the police, there should be guidelines for dealing with the given set,” the Court said today.

The bench was dealing with a plea that was initially filed for the protection of a lesbian couple, in which the Court has been considering larger issues concerning the welfare of LGBTQIA+ persons.

Appearing for the State government, Advocate General Dr. Birendra Saraf today assured that he will take instructions from the government on whether it can form a committee to sensitise police officers dealing with cases involving LGBTQIA+ persons.

This committee could have government officials and other stakeholders, including members from the LGBTQIA+ community, he noted.

He added that such a committee could come up with a protocol to be followed by the police when handling complaints of missing persons or where protection is required to be given to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Court observed that these guidelines should focus on tackling police harassment as well.

The Court also asked the AG if the State could consider amending the police code of conduct in Maharashtra, on similar lines of amendments brought about in Tamil Nadu to deal with this issue.

Saraf noted that there was already a Supreme Court judgment containing an express protocol to be followed by the police while handling missing and kidnapping complaints.

“We could easily do it. This is something obvious. It is by Supreme Court, there is no reason why it cannot be followed,” Saraf said.

Justice Dere added that bringing such protocol into the police manual is something that the police can do at their level.

She also suggested to the AG that the State could consider engaging a lawyer for suggestions on the issue, preferably a lawyer who takes an interest in the LGBTQIA+ cause.

She added that Advocate Vijay Hiremath, the lawyer appearing for the petitioners in the present case, could be so engaged.

“You take someone from the community. Also, consider keeping a lawyer. Hiremath can assist with suggestions. A lawyer will help in articulating the guidelines,” the judge said.

The judge further reiterated that the State government must resolve the issues of the LGBTQIA+ community in prisons.

“Prisons are important too. There can be separate barracks for prisoners from the LGBTQIA+ community. And where you do not require the government, do it at the police level,” the Court said.

This aspect was earlier flagged by the High Court  on July 28, when the Court asked the Inspector General (Prisons) of Maharashtra to ensure no discriminatory treatment is meted out to transgender persons and homosexual persons lodged in prisons.

The Court will hear the matter next after 3 weeks.

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