A same-sex couple’s plea for protection before the Madras High Court on Tuesday saw Justice N Anand Venkatesh observe that he is also in the process of unlearning pre-conceived notions held by him on such issues.
Earlier this month, the Judge had decided to hear this case in-camera after observing that the case has to be dealt with more sensitivity and empathy and that “it is a sample case of how the society even now is grappling to come to terms with same-sex orientation.”
“To be open, I am also trying to break my own preconceived notions about this issue, and I am in the process of evolving, and sincerely attempting to understand the feelings of the Petitioners and their parents,” the Court said on Tuesday.
With the consent of the couple and their parents, the Court has now enlisted the aid of a counsellor who specialises in working with LGBTQI+ persons.
Apart from counselling the couple and their parents so that they may resolve differences between them, the counsellor has also been asked to submit a report to the court in a sealed cover by April 26.
“This move becomes very vital since this Court is moving into unchartered waters, and a report from a specialist will provide support to this Court to move forward in this case,” the Court said.
On Tuesday, the Court was informed that “missing girl” cases registered by the couple’s parents have been dropped by the police and that all parties want to work towards a peaceful resolution of their issues.
The Court recorded that the couple was very clear that both will be a partner to the other for life.
“The Petitioners know each other for the last 2 years and both in unison stated that their friendship blossomed into love and they were very clear that both of them will be a partner to each other for life. The Petitioners did not mince any words and there was so much of clarity in what they wanted to convey,” the Judge noted, following a personal, in-chamber interaction.
The two had fallen in love while studying in college, the Court was informed. With their parents opposing the relationship, the couple left for Madurai in February this year. The Court was told that the couple is now being supported by an NGO, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care and that they are searching for jobs to financially sustain themselves.
While the couple’s parents were initially not able to accept the relationship, they became more concerned about their children’s safety after a point. Noting that the parents were eager to speak with their children, the Court arranged for the couple to interact with their parents at the mediation centre of the Court. It was after this interaction, that both the couple and their parents agreed to meet with the counsellor to sort out their differences.
Meanwhile, Justice Venkatesh informed that he also did research to understand the case better. He refrained from making further academic observations at this stage, stating that it would be hypocritical of him to do so and that he is still unlearning his own preconceived notions about the issue.
“I personally spent some time in doing some research and collecting materials to arrive at a proper understanding of this issue. It would have been possible for me to pack my order with a lot of research material and get applauded by the outside world for rendering a scholarly Order. There was a call from inside which kept reminding me that if I venture into such an exercise at this stage, it will only be hypocritical of me since the order will not reveal my true and honest feeling about this very important issue.
To be open, I am also trying to break my own preconceived notions about this issue, and I am in the process of evolving, and sincerely attempting to understand the feelings of the Petitioners and their parents thereafter, proceed to write a detailed order on this issue. That is the reason why I am trying to develop this case brick by brick and ultimately, construct something purposeful on this issue,” the order said.
For now, the Court recorded that status quo will be maintained, whereby the couple would continue to be under the protection of the NGO they are with. On a request by the parents, the petitioner-couple agreed to regularly interact with the parents.
On a request by the counsel, the matter was also placed before the Chief Justice for certain administrative directions. The case will be heard again on April 28.