Eastern Eye (UK)

Same sex marriage plea referred to larger bench


- (Agencies)

INDIA’S top court on Monday (13) referred petitions seeking legal recognitio­n of same-sex marriages to a larger, constituti­onal bench next month, a day after the government said it opposed the unions.

LGBTQ rights in India have expanded in recent years and, if the current case is successful, the country would become only the second Asian jurisdicti­on after Taiwan to recognise same-sex unions.

Last Sunday (12), the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of prime minister Narendra Modi told the Supreme Court it was against same-sex marriage and that any change was up to parliament, not the courts.

Its submission said “any interferen­ce... would cause a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and in accepted societal values”.

“Living together as partners and having sexual relationsh­ip by same sex individual­s... is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children”, it added.

The ideologica­l parent of the BJP has backed the government position, months after raising hopes with supportive comments on gay rights. “Marriage can only take place between persons of opposite genders, we agree with the government’s stance on same-sex marriage,” Dattatreya Hosabale, a top official of the Rashtriya Swayamseva­k Sangh (RSS), said.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said in January that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgende­r (LGBT) community “should have their own private and social space as they are humans and have the right to live as others”.

The RSS, establishe­d in 1925, is a powerful Hindu group estimated to have millions of active members across India and overseas. The organisati­on played a major role in Modi’s rise to power.

The Supreme Court on Monday referred the case to a five-judge special constituti­onal bench. It will determine whether recognitio­n of same-sex marriage is valid under the constituti­on.

The next hearing is expected to take place on April 18, with the proceeding­s livestream­ed, the court said.

“We remain very hopeful... We are very pleased that this matter has gone to a constituti­onal bench as we consider it to be an issue of fundamenta­l and constituti­onal rights,” said Niharika Karanjawal­a, a lawyer representi­ng one of the petitioner­s.

In 2014, transgende­r people were given official recognitio­n as a “third gender” and three years later India’s highest court recognised sexual orientatio­n as protected under a fundamenta­l right to privacy.

A landmark ruling in 2018 struck down a colonial-era law that banned gay sex, and last year the court ruled that unmarried partners or same-sex couples were entitled to welfare benefits. But rights for the LGBTQ community remain a sensitive subject in the country.

“What happened with the 2018 judgement is that homosexual­ity has been decriminal­ised. Which means the community... is no longer seen in the same bracket as criminals, murderers, thieves and all of that,” said gay rights activist Anjali Gopalan.

“However, no other rights have been granted to the community, for example, rights that we as citizens of this country take for granted and the most obvious one is the right to marry.”

Abhay Dang, one of the petitioner­s, said this year that he and his partner were “just strangers” in the eyes of the law, despite having a wedding celebratio­n in 2021. “Whatever basket of rights marriage provides, which heterosexu­al couples completely take for granted, for us same-sex couples, we did not have those rights,” he said.

 ?? © Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images ?? HOPEFUL: ame-se couple ougata Basu (left) nd ayank Kalra, it thei adopte children utside heir ome in Bengaluru, re mong hose opin fo lega re gnition of heir elationshi
© Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images HOPEFUL: ame-se couple ougata Basu (left) nd ayank Kalra, it thei adopte children utside heir ome in Bengaluru, re mong hose opin fo lega re gnition of heir elationshi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom