A panel will be formed to address the concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community members, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday during the hearing of a batch of pleas seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages in India, reported Live Law.
A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha is hearing the pleas that have challenged the constitutionality of laws that only recognise marriages between a man and a woman.
The petition has also contended that marriage law provisions in the country are discriminatory against the LGBTQIA+ community and infringe on their fundamental right to dignity and privacy.
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 the judiciary need not intervene.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the committee will be headed by a cabinet secretary. It will examine whether certain legal rights can be granted to same-sex couples without legalising their union.
At the last hearing on April 27, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre whether certain social welfare benefits could be granted to same-sex couples without legally recognising their marriage. “When we say recognition, it may not always be recognition as marriage,” Justice Narasimha had said. “Recognition can mean association which should entitle them to certain benefits.”
At another hearing on April 18, Advocate Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for a petitioner, had told the court that recognition of marriage was not only about dignity but was also “a bouquet of rights” that comes with it. She had argued that same-sex partners are denied joint bank accounts and cannot nominate their partner in insurance schemes, among other things.
On Wednesday, Mehta informed the court that the petitioners can give their suggestions to the panel. “The committee will go into them and try as far as possible and legally permissible to see they are addressed,” he added.
However, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the petitioners, said that the case pertains to substantial constitutional issues and mere “administrative tweaking” by the Centre may not completely resolve them, reported Live Law.
The Supreme Court assured the petitioners that it will decide the constitutional issues pertaining to same-sex marriage, regardless of the concessions suggested by the Centre.
“Don’t see this as the end of the battle,” Justice Bhat said. “Your movement for equal recognition will always remain. Even if you don’t accept this or partly accept this, it won’t be the end of what you do. If you get something out of this, it is a big big positive.”