The verdict holds great importance for India’s queer community, who have previously been snubbed by the Government regarding marriage rights
This Friday, November 25, 2022, the Supreme Court of India issued a notice to the Central Government and Attorney General R. Venkataramani, regarding two pleas by gay couples that seek recognition of their marriages under the Special Marriage Act.
While the bench will return to the appeals in four weeks while waiting for responses from the Centre, the pleas have heightened awareness of the need for a framework regarding same-sex marriages in the country, while setting a precedent for similar cases in the future.
The first plea was filed by Hyderabad-based Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dang — a couple that have been in a relationship for nearly a decade, and recently celebrated their union with a commitment ceremony in December 2021, where they received the blessings of their parents, family, and friends.
The plea filed by Chakraborty and Dang said, “Despite being a couple for over a decade, calling their parents mummy-papa and maa-baba and going on holidays with them, having bought a home and built a life together, Supriyo and Abhay’s relationship is still legally as fragile as it was during the dark days of the pandemic. They do not enjoy any of the rights that married couples do, even though this Hon’ble Court has time and again declared that all adults have the right to marry a person of their choice”.
The second couple, Parth Phiroze Mehrotra and Uday Raj, have also been in a long term relationship for over 17 years — having “seen each other through life’s ups and downs, sickness and health, through the best and through the worst,” according to their petition. They also explained that they were raising two children together — claiming that their lack of access to the civil institution of marriage would prevent them from having a legal relationship with their children.
Senior Advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Menaka Guruswamy and advocates Arundhati Katju, Priya Puri and Shristi Borthakur appeared in the lead petition, while Saurabh Kirpal and Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi appeared in the second petition.
As the ex-Attorney General for India, Rohatgi is one of the foremost legal minds in the country, and has often appeared at panel discussions and in major cases of public interest — sometimes alongside Kirpal, whom he shared the stage with during the recent book launch of Fifteen Judgements: Cases that have Shaped the Financial Landscape of India, earlier this November.
Kirpal himself is a champion of gay rights in the country. As one of its first, prominent openly-gay lawyers, he recently discussed LGBTQ+ prejudice regarding his own promotion within the Indian legal system.
“There are 12 judge recommendations but only 11 are appointed and I am not,” shared Kirpal during the book launch. “If you scratch the surface and the alleged reasons, if you see it’s my sexuality and there’s no other possible reason,” he continued, before Rohatgi agreed with the same, raising concerns about India’s lack of progressiveness, and how the Section 377 case resulted in indifference from the vast majority of the country.
Kirpal asserted that India had a “certain mindset or a worldview which is some 20 years behind the rest of the world and 20 years behind the youth of the country.” This echoes the sentiment of other petitions currently pending in Indian High Courts — such as a September 2020 case in Delhi where Solicitor General Tushar Mehta quashed a petition demanding same-sex marriage rights under the Hindu Marriage Act. Back in February 2021, the Centre had opposed the recognition of same-sex marriages, stating that such interference would cause ‘a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country.’
Images: Bar and Bench