After a historic legal battle, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday delivered a monumental judgment on the legal recognition of queer marriages. The apex court in its verdict refused to grant legal rights to the LGBTQIA+ community in India for same-sex marriage.
A five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, had started hearing the petitions on April 18, 2023.
Here are the pivotal moments and discussions that have shaped this groundbreaking case:
I. Centre Challenges Petitions' Validity
The Centre initially challenged the maintainability of the petitions, contending that marriage laws fell under the legislative domain and should not be defined through judicial interpretation. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud questioned this objection, indicating the importance of the case's context.
II. Focus On The Special Marriage Act
The Court opted to concentrate on the Special Marriage Act, avoiding personal laws for the time being. Justices emphasized gradual change and refrained from delving into complex personal laws, highlighting the need for a measured approach.
III. Dispute Over Marriage Equality Views
The Centre labelled marriage equality supporters as 'urban elitists,' suggesting their views were not representative. Advocates countered this claim, citing the struggles of their clients, highlighting the diverse backgrounds of those seeking marriage equality.
IV. Gender Fluidity And Legal Definitions
Discussions on gender challenged conventional norms. The Solicitor General argued that biological factors defined gender, but Chief Justice Chandrachud stressed the complexity of these concepts. The Court debated the need for gender-neutral language in the Special Marriage Act, leading to considerations about legal terminologies.
V. Indian Culture's Inclusivity
The Court acknowledged India's historically inclusive culture, noting that British colonial influence led to the criminalisation of homosexuality. Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized India's cultural diversity and acceptance, providing crucial context to the case.
VI. Bar Council of India's Stand
The Bar Council of India suggested leaving the matter to the legislative process, emphasizing traditional views of marriage. They argued against judicial interference, asserting that societal consensus should guide such significant changes.
VII. Insertion of Gender-Neutral Terms
Discussions arose about incorporating gender-neutral language in the Special Marriage Act. The debate highlighted the complexities of age-related provisions, emphasizing the need for thoughtful legal phrasing.
VIII. Rights For Same-Sex Couples
In a significant move, the Central Government agreed to explore granting specific legal rights to same-sex couples, even without recognising their relationships as marriages. This step addresses social security and welfare concerns, showcasing a potential path forward for queer couples.
This judgment by the apex court will undeniably shape the trajectory of queer rights in India, reflecting the nation's evolving stance on LGBTQIA+ issues.