Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Centre opposes live streaming of proceedings in batch of same-sex marriage petitions

The Central Government has opposed live-streaming of proceedings in a batch of cases pertaining to the demand for recognition of same-sex marriages in the country.

The Ministry of Law and Justice, in its affidavit, has stated that live telecast of the proceedings may evoke unwanted reactions and attention on the ground that the arguments during the course of proceedings could be extremely charged. 

The Ministry has expressed apprehension over the fact that the live streaming may be edited or morphed, thereby affecting the sanctity of the proceedings. 

Pointing out that there have been several incidents in the past wherein live streaming of proceedings caused serious unrest, the Centre stated that live streaming may not be feasible for every case. 

In May this year, the Court expressed discontentment with certain “highly objectionable” comments made by the Centre in its earlier affidavit and asked to file a better affidavit. 

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad is seized of a bunch of petitions seeking legal recognition of marriage between same-sex, queer or non-heterosexual persons under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and other laws.

One such petition is filed by an Overseas Citizen of India Joydeep Sengupta and his American gay partner Blaine Stephens, for declaration of applicability of Section 7A(1)(d) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, which entitles a spouse of foreign origin of an OCI cardholder to apply for OCI status in the country, to non-heterosexual, same-sex or queer spouses.

In addition, the plea prays for declaration of the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 as also the the Special Marriage Act, 1954 as violative of Articles 14, and 21 of the Constitution to the extent that these enactments excludes same-sex marriages or queer marriages from its purview.

Another petition filed by a group of non-heterosexual persons seeks declaration that a marriage solemnized between “any two persons”, regardless of any gender or sexuality, be declared legal under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Alleging that the Indian Constitution invalidates any gender and sexuality based preconditions for marriages solemnized under SMA, the plea by one Udit Sood and others states, “The object of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, is to expansively provide access to the fundamental right to marry, notwithstanding societal prejudices.”

“Conditioning marriage on compliance with outdated and unscientific heteronormative values and binary notions of gender, excludes LGBTQ+ individuals.”

An application was moved in November last year, by three professionals living in Mumbai and Karnataka in one of the petitions filed by one Abhijit Iyer Mitra, for live-streaming of proceedings in the instant cases on the ground that the issue at hand is of great national importance in particular for the LGBTQIA+ community, which constitutes around 8 percent of the country’s population. Notice was issued in the application on November 30. 

The matter is slated for next hearing on December 6.


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