New Delhi: A five-judge Constitution Bench of India’s Supreme Court will on Tuesday pronounce a historic judgment on a batch of petitions seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
The much-awaited verdict, which has been reserved for more than five months, will have big implications for people in same-sex marriages.
Following a marathon 10-day hearing that saw intense arguments from all stakeholders — including the Centre and the petitioners — the Supreme Court had on May 11 reserved its verdict in the case.
There are around 21 petitioners who sought direction from the Apex Court to the Indian Federal government to grant legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
The first petition was filed by Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dang. The second petition was moved by Parth Phiroze Merhotra and Uday Raj Anand before the top court, followed by others.
The five-judge Constitution bench, of the Apex Court, led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and four other judges– Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha – heard as many as 40 lawyers from both sides and representing petitioners, different stakeholders and the Central government.
The petitioners argued that all they wanted was a legal recognition for same-sex marriage and urged it to reinterpret the provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954.
The petitioners argued that Section 4(C) of the Act recognises marriage only between a ‘male’ and a ‘female’. This discriminates against same-sex couples by denying them matrimonial benefits such as adoption, surrogacy, employment and retirement benefits. The petitioners asked the Court to declare Section 4(C) of the Act unconstitutional.
The petitioners argued that the non-recognition of same-sex marriage violates the rights to equality, dignity and freedom of expression.
The pleas, filed before the Apex Court, said that same-sex marriages can be accorded legal recognition under the SMA to grant dignity to their unions. It also said that the court should pass appropriate directions for the community’s access to social security and other welfare benefits.
On the other hand, opposing the batch of petitions, the Centre, through Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta — contended that legalising same-sex marriages was not in the court’s domain. They argued that it is for Parliament to legislate on it after consulting the states.
The Centre also told the top court that if this was recognised, then a gamut of laws would need to be amended as a consequence.
The Union government vehemently opposed the plea for legal recognition, and argued that the legislative policy of the country has consciously validated a union only between a biological man and a biological woman and “that it is only for the Parliament to decide this important issue”.
Three states — Rajasthan, Assam and Andhra Pradesh — have opposed the petitioners’ contention, in the top court, seeking legal validation for such wedlocks.
The court had observed that marriage is a constitutional right and not merely a statutory right. UNI