The Supreme Court on Friday transferred to itself all petitions pending before various High Courts on the recognition of same-sex marriage in India, Live Law reported.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala asked the Centre to file its reply to the petitions by February 15.

“To obviate any difficulty to a petitioner who cannot engage a counsel or travel to Delhi, all the petitioners are provided liberty to appear on virtual platform and advance their submissions,” the court said. “Link to be provided to any who ask for the same.”

The court made the decision after counsels for the petitioners told the bench they want the pleas pending before the High Courts to be transferred to the Supreme Court for an “authoritative pronouncement” on the issue, according to PTI.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told the bench that the Delhi High Court is scheduled to hear pleas seeking recognition of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court, he suggested, could await its verdict or it can transfer all the petitions to itself.

“Since several petitions are pending before diverse High Courts on the same subject, we direct to transfer all petitions before this court,” the bench said.

The case will be heard next on March 13.

Centre’s stand

The Centre has consistently opposed the pleas in the Delhi High Court. During the hearings in the High Court, the government had argued that same-sex marriage was not part of “Indian culture or law” and that such relationships could not be compared to an “Indian family unit”.

In another hearing, Mehta had told the court that marriage only between a “biological man” and a “biological woman” was permissible under Indian laws.

In December, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sushil Kumar Modi had said in Parliament that same-sex marriage should not be legalised in the country and that the judiciary should also not give any decision which goes against the cultural ethos of India.

The Supreme Court had decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark judgement in 2018. A five-judge Constitution bench had unanimously held that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised consensual gay sex was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”.

However, discrimination against members of the LGBTQI community is still widespread.