Supreme Court’s verdict on Same-Sex Marriage

By Amigos IAS

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

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

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

·       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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