SC seeks Centre's response on pleas to recognize same-sex marriage
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre and Attorney-General for India R Venkataramani on two pleas seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The top court served separate notices and sought their responses in four weeks. A division bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli was hearing the matter.
Why does this story matter?
- The demand for the registration of same-sex marriages gained momentum after the top court decriminalized homosexuality in a landmark decision in 2018.
- Petitioners have been contesting that the denial of registration of same-sex marriages amounts to discrimination and a violation of their rights.
- The court has now sought the responses of the government and Venkatarami and listed the case for hearing after four weeks.
This is living issue, not property issue: Petitioners' counsel
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing petitioners, said, "This is a living issue, not a property issue. Impact is on health, succession. We are only here talking about the Special Marriage Act," per Live Law. Also appearing for petitioners, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul submitted the issue violates basic rights like adoption, surrogacy, and gratuity of same-sex couples, adding, "Even the opening of joint accounts."
Petition filed by two same-sex couples
The petitions for recognizing such marriages have been filed by two same-sex couples. The first couple from Hyderabad, Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dang, has been together for nearly 10 years. They also held a "commitment ceremony" in December last year. Meanwhile, the second PIL was filed by Parth Phiroze Mehrotra and Uday Raj Anand. They have been in a relationship for 17 years.
Make legislation gender neutral: Petitioners
The petitioners reportedly rely on NALSA v/s Union of India, where the top court maintained the Constitution "protects non-binary individuals." It also said that the protections granted under Articles 14, 15, 16, 19, and 21 can't be limited only to males or females. Petitioners pray that the restrictions for same-sex marriages under Section 4 (c) of the Special Marriage Act be read down.
Similar petitions pending in high courts
It is pertinent to mention that the Delhi and Kerala High Courts have at least nine petitions seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages pending. They seek the registration of such marriages under the Special Marriage Act, Foreign Marriage Act, and Hindu Marriage Act.
Criminalizing gay sex irrational and indefensible: 2018 judgment
In September 2018, the top court settled the decades-old demand of the LGBTQ+ community by decriminalizing homosexuality. The five-judge constitutional bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a 158-year-old colonial-era law. "The [LGBTQ] community has the same rights as of any ordinary citizen," Misra had stated.