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Supreme Court’s verdict on Same-Sex Marriage

Why is it in the news?

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) refused to grant legal status to same-sex marriages.

Major takeaways from the Verdict

Fundamental Right to Marry

  • All five judges on the Constitution Bench unanimously agreed that there is no fundamental right to marry under the Constitution.
  • The marriage as an institution is regulated by law, and same-sex couples do not have the right to participate in it unless the law permits.
  • Further, the court directed the Union to set up a committee under the chairpersonship of the Cabinet Secretary to examine how the legal framework can be suitably amended to make the benefits of marriage available to same-sex couples.
Supreme Court’s on the institution of Marriage in India

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Supreme Court highlighted that the institution of marriage has undergone significant changes throughout history, from practices like sati to interfaith marriages.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 It emphasized that characterizing marriage as static or unchanging is incorrect.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 According to the Chief Justice of India, there is no universal conception of marriage, as it is understood differently in law, religion, and culture. Some view it as a sacrament, while others see it as a contract.

Tweak to Special Marriage Act (SMA)

  • The judges also unanimously agreed that it is not possible to amend the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (SMA) by using gender-neutral language to allow same-sex marriage.
  • The petitioners had requested the SC to interpret the word “marriage” as between “spouses” instead of “man and woman,” but this was not accepted.
  • Striking down gender-restrictive provisions of the SMA was considered to jeopardize the legal framework for interfaith and inter-caste couples.
  • Interpreting the SMA in a gender-neutral way was seen as “judicial lawmaking,” violating the doctrine of separation of powers.
Recognition of Civil Unions
  • The court rejected the idea of recognizing civil unions for queer couples, stating that such a decision falls within the domain of elected legislatures and not the judiciary.

Rights for Non-Heterosexual Couples

  • All five judges took note of the Centre’s commitment to forming a high-level Cabinet committee to consider rights that can be conferred on non-heterosexual couples.
  • These rights could include opening joint bank accounts, inheritance, medical decision-making, and more.

Adoption Rights for Same -Sex and Unmarries Couples

  • The minority view by CJI Chandrachud and Justice Kaul struck down specific guidelines by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) that disallowed same-sex or unmarried couples from jointly adopting a child.
  • They argued that it is discriminatory to assume that only married, heterosexual couples can provide a safe space for raising children.
  • Further, the court encouraged the executive to reconsider adoption laws in the best interests of children.

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