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Desh Ki Baat

Supreme Court Verdict: India’s Marriage Equality Awaited

India's Supreme Court on the brink of a historic verdict challenging traditional marriage norms as it grapples with the legal recognition of same-sex unions. A landmark decision awaits.

Marriage Equality Supreme Court Challenges India’s Marriage Equality Norms: A Verdict on Same-Sex Unions Awaited

The Indian government has consistently opposed the idea of legally recognizing same-sex marriage, labelling it as an urban elitist concept. They argue that Marriage Equality should be debated and decided by the parliament. Today, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its judgment on petitions seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriage. This decision is focused on the legal aspects of the Special Marriage Act and the Foreign Marriage Act, rather than acknowledging non-heterosexual marriages.

Key Delay in Same-Sex Case

A five-judge Constitution Bench, with Chief Justice DY Chandrachud at its helm, had postponed the judgment on these petitions after an extensive ten-day hearing. The government contests the admissibility of more than 21 petitions requesting the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. They argue that the courts lack the authority to create or recognize marriages through judicial interpretation or legislative amendments.

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The Supreme Court clarified that it is not intervening in personal laws, such as the Hindu Marriages Act, and is solely concerned with the Special Marriage Act. During the proceedings, Justice Sanjay Kaul suggested that incremental changes might be more suitable for matters of such societal significance and complexity, emphasizing the importance of timing.

Marriage Norms Challenged

The government had asserted that marriage is an institution reserved for heterosexual couples, and they characterized those advocating for marriage equality as urban elites. The Supreme Court criticized this argument, asking for factual evidence to support it. Senior Advocate K.V. Vishwanathan presented the case of a transgender person who had been disowned and forced to beg on the streets, highlighting the need for the recognition of same-sex marriages.

The government contended that a person’s gender is determined by their biological sex, a stance challenged by CJI Chandrachud. He argued that gender is a more complex concept than just one’s genitalia and that even when the Special Marriage Act mentions “man and woman,” these terms are not solely based on physical characteristics.

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Parliament Deferral Requested

The Bar Council of India requested the Supreme Court to defer the matter to the parliament, citing that “99% of people” were against same-sex marriages. During the proceedings, the government agreed to consider establishing a committee headed by the cabinet secretary to examine legal rights for same-sex couples, even without recognizing their relationship as a marriage. The Supreme Court had urged the issuance of executive guidelines to grant financial security to same-sex couples, including joint bank accounts, provident funds, and more.

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