In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court of India announced its verdict on the legal recognition of same-sex marriage on October 17, 2023. The apex court had reserved its judgment on May 11, following a series of pleas seeking legal validation for same-sex marriage.
The five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices SK Kaul, SR Bhat, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha, presided over the hearings. During the course of these hearings, the petitioners passionately argued that same-sex couples should be granted the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. These rights include being recognized as a “spouse” in financial and insurance matters, medical decisions, inheritance, succession, adoption, and surrogacy.
Key Highlights from the Judgment:
- Non-Heterosexual and Heterosexual Unions: Justice SK Kaul emphasized that non-heterosexual and heterosexual unions must be seen as two sides of the same coin, underlining the need for equal recognition.
- Committee for Queer Rights: Chief Justice DY Chandrachud directed the government to constitute a committee to decide the rights and entitlements of individuals in queer unions. This committee would consider the inclusion of queer couples as ‘family’ in ration cards, allow them to nominate joint bank accounts, and grant rights associated with pension, gratuity, and more.
- State’s Duty: The court declared that states, unions, and union territories shall not bar queer people from entering unions to access state benefits. The directive ensures that there is no discrimination in access to goods and services for the queer community.
- Transgender Marriages: The judgment affirmed that transgenders can marry, and if a transgender person wishes to marry a heterosexual person, such a marriage should be recognized as between a man and a woman.
- Recognition of Queer Unions: The verdict emphasized that material benefits and services granted to heterosexual couples but denied to queer couples would be a violation of their fundamental rights.
- Police Procedures: The court ruled that police should conduct a preliminary enquiry before registering an FIR against a queer couple over their relationship.
- Formation of Family: The judgment recognized the innate need of humans to form part of a family and share emotions. It underscored the importance of recognizing diverse forms of associations.
- Separation of Powers: The court clarified that the doctrine of separation of powers does not bar judicial review and issuing directions for the protection of fundamental rights.
The judgment not only recognizes the fundamental rights of the queer community but also paves the way for legal recognition and social acceptance of same-sex marriages in India.
The verdict carries immense significance, as India could potentially become the most populous nation in the world to extend marriage rights to the LGBTQ+ community. While this landmark decision is limited to the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, it is a significant step towards equality and inclusivity.
The LGBTQ+ community and their allies are eagerly awaiting the full text of the judgment, which will shed light on the comprehensive legal recognition of same-sex marriages and their associated rights.