Queer and allied student groups from 36 law schools in India on Thursday described the Bar Council resolution against the Supreme Court hearing petitions seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages in India as “ignorant and harmful”.

A Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud has been hearing arguments in the case since April 18 and the court has made several headline observations during last week’s hearings.

The Narendra Modi government has opposed the petitions arguing that same-sex marriages are not compatible with the Indian idea of family and that the demands for their legal recognition represent “urban elitist views for the purpose of social acceptance”. It has also contended that making laws around marriage is the prerogative of the legislature and, therefore, the judiciary need not intervene.

On April 23, the Bar Council had passed s resolution saying it wanted the Supreme Court to leave the question of same-sex marriage to Parliament. It also said that the vast majority of the population believes that a decision by the Supreme Court in favour of the petitioners would go against India’s cultural and socio-religious structures of the country.

In a statement on Thursday, the student groups from the law schools said that as future members of the Bar, it was “alienating and hurtful” to see their seniors engage in hateful rhetoric.

The students belong to 36 law schools, including National Law University Delhi, Faculty of Law, Delhi University, and Gujarat National Law University.

The resolution of the lawyers’ body, they said, was “antithetical to our Constitution and the spirit of inclusive social life”.

They pointed out that the Bar Council’s declaration that “more than 99.9% of people of the country’’ are opposed to same-sex unions did not cite any real authority to back up the claim. The Bar Council blatantly concocted statistics to use the worn-out theory that queer persons form a miniscule minority of the population, the statement said.

“Equally ignorant is the BCI’s unsupported assertion that marriage has always been a union between ‘biological’ men and women based on procreation,” the students added. “This is a colonial reading of Indian history, culture, and civilisation – there is diverse evidence of queer love and marriage existing in various forms across Indian cultures since ancient times. The BCI ignores this evidence.”

The student collectives said that the Bar Council is not empowered to pass comments on sub judice matters.

“The passing of this resolution is entirely unwarranted and a deplorable attempt by the BCI to illegitimately create influence for itself,” they said. “The BCI must re-familiarise itself with the role envisioned during its establishment, look at the state of the Indian legal profession, and devote its resources to more pressing challenges – rather than needlessly entering constitutional debates.”

The students also opposed the lawyer’s body characterising petitions seeking marriage equality as a political decision. “This shows their heinous indifference towards the reality of queer and trans persons living as second-class citizens in our country,” the statement read. “Consequently, the BCI completely misses that fundamental rights cannot be made to suffer from the inaction of the legislature.”

The statement urged the legal fraternity to disavow discriminatory, parochial, and regressive beliefs in the pursuit of justice.

“As students of law, we are proud to situate ourselves in history as a group that stood on the side of
justice at this critical juncture,” it added. “To quote the ever-inspiring motto immortalised by Dr BR Ambedkar: Educate, Agitate, Organise!”

Also read:

  1. What route could the Supreme Court use to legalise same-sex marriage?
  2. ‘Want to live and die together’: Meet the people battling for same-sex marriage rights in India