SC refuses open court hearing of review pleas challenging same-sex marriage verdict

Various review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the top court judgement, which denied marriage equality rights to queer couples.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose. Express Illustrations

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday did not agree to give an open court hearing on the review petition challenging the top court judgement that refused to legally recognise same-sex and queer marriage.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said that the constitution bench review is heard not in the open court but in chambers.

The apex court's clarification came when petitioners mentioned the review petition challenging the same-sex marriage judgement dated October 17, 2023, before the Supreme Court and urged for an open court hearing.

The review petition was mentioned by senior Advocate NK Kaul, urging the top court for an open hearing on a plea seeking legal recognition of same-sex and queer marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, Foreign Marriage Act (FMA), 1969, Citizenship Act, 1955, the common law and other existing legislation.

The Supreme Court will hear the review petition on July 10.

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud will hear the petition. The other four judges on the bench are justices Sanjiv Khanna, Hima Kohli, BV Nagarathna and PS Narasimha.

Justices SK Kaul and S Ravindra Bhat, who have retired from the bench, have been replaced by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BV Nagarathna.

Various review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the top court's judgement, which denied marriage equality rights to queer couples.

One of the review petitions has been filed through advocates Karuna Nundy and Ruchira Goel, which sought to review the majority judgement dated October 17, 2023, passed by the top court, which rejected a batch of petitions seeking legal recognition of same-sex and queer marriage.

The top court delivered four separate judgements dated October 17, 2023. The majority judgement was delivered by justices SR Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice SK Kaul have delivered minority judgements.

Image used for representational purpose.
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The majority judgement held that there is no fundamental right to marry; transgender persons have the right to heterosexual marriage under the existing provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020; entitlement to legal recognition of the right to union, akin to marriage or civil union, or conferring legal status upon the parties to the relationship can be only through enacted law and the court cannot enjoin or direct the creation of such a regulatory framework resulting in legal status.

The majority judgement also denied giving any adoption rights to queer couples as it held that Regulation 5(3) of the CARA Regulations cannot be held void.

The petitioners sought to review the majority judgement, stating that it suffers from errors of law, application of law contrary to established principles, and commits a grave miscarriage of justice.

"The majority judgement erroneously holds that the issue of 'whether the absence of law or a regulatory framework, or the failure of the State to enact law, amounts to discrimination that is protected against under Article 15' was not argued or urged by the petitioners," read the petition.

"The majority judgement has erroneously failed to consider that the petitioner's prayers do not seek the creation of a new institution of marriage for the petitioners, but only to extend the existing legal institution of marriage and consequent benefits to the petitioners. However, this is re-framing the right sought by the petitioners as a right to the creation of a new institution, which was not sought," the petition said.

"The majority judgement erroneously refuses to find Regulation 5(3) of the Adoption Regulations, 2022 is unconstitutional, finding that the law treats children of married couples and unmarried couples differently. However, this is contrary to established principles of law because, as noted by CJI Chandrachud in his dissenting opinion, the law offers no protection to a child adopted by a married couple that it does not offer to a child adopted by an unmarried couple," read the plea.

The petition said that the operation of the majority judgement has grave consequences for the lives and relationships that the petitioners have built together, which remain outside the protection of the law. The dangers of the discrimination that has been recognised in all four opinions in the impugned judgements are the reality of the petitioners until they are recognised to be equal and on par with heterosexual couples, the petition further added.

"Indeed, the petitioners in the captioned petitions also have children who are also without this equal recognition of their family. On this basis, the errors in the majority judgement constitute a sweeping miscarriage of justice, warranting urgent scrutiny by the top court in the exercise of its review powers," the petition urged.

Besides seeking to set aside the earlier top court's order, the petition sought to consider the remedies under Sections 15–18 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

The petition said that reading the provisions under Sections 15–18 for the solemnization of "marriages celebrated in other forms" to be made available for non-heterosexual marriages, which may, in turn, be permitted to evolve through common law, prevents an exercise of "reading in/down" any provision of the SMA and gives effect to the top court's recognition of the constitutional rights of non-heterosexual and queer marriages.

Image used for representational purpose.
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