The Centre on Wednesday apprised the Supreme Court that they will constitute a committee headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary to look into the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. This was informed to a Five-judge Constitution Bench by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was appearing for Centre.
The five-judge Constitution Bench comprising of the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice PS Narasimha is dealing with a batch of petitions pertaining to ‘marriage equality rights for LGBTQIA+ community. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apprised the Supreme Court that a committee headed by the cabinet secretary will be formed to look into the issues faced by the same-sex couple.
SG Mehta further submitted that petitioners can submit suggestions so that the committee can apply their minds to it. The bench observed that it appears that the Centre is accepting that people do have a right to co-habit and basis of that there may be certain incidents of that cohabitation like bank accounts and insurance policies.
SG Mehta submitted before the Supreme Court that the government is positive about the concerns raised by the top court for giving some social benefits to same-sex couples. He further said that this would need coordination between more than one ministry. In the last hearing on April 27, the Supreme Court asked the government to give a response on social benefits that can be given to same-sex couples even without legal recognition of their marital status.
CJI DY Chandrachud has suggested that there are ministries dedicated to this purpose like social justice and empowerment such as Ministry for Women and Child Development. The court has asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to see if there can be separate legislation taken which would protect the rights of same-sex couples. Solicitor General had expressed his acknowledgement that concerns such as having a joint bank account, nomination in insurance, etc are all human concerns and there can be deliberation to find a solution. Solicitor General had indicated that he could attempt to undertake this exercise since the suggestion has come from the Bench.
The top court in its last hearing remarked that the government must recognise and secure cohabitor relationships. “When the bench says recognition, it may not always be recognition of marriage. Recognition must be something which gives them benefits”, the court added. The Supreme Court is hearing several petitions seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage. One of the petitions earlier raised the absence of a legal framework which allowed members of the LGBTQIA+ community to marry any person of their choice.
In one of the petitions, the couple sought to enforce the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to marry any person of their choice. It said, “The exercise of which ought to be insulated from the disdain of legislative and popular majorities.” The petitioners, further, asserted their fundamental right to marry each other and prayed for appropriate directions from this Court allowing and enabling them to do so.