The Central Government today informed the Delhi High Court that it has prepared its reply to the pleas seeking the legal recognition of same sex marriage (Abhijit Iyer Mitra & ors vs UOI, Dr Kavita Arora & anr vs UOI, Vaibhav Jain & Anr vs UOI).
In the last hearing, the Bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw had extended a final opportunity for the Centre to file its reply before adjourning the matter to today.
Appearing for the Central Government this morning, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the reply has been prepared and is in the process of being affirmed. He added that the reply would be filed during the course of the day. The High Court has taken this submission on record.
The Court today also noted that another related petition has been moved in the matter. In view of the same, the Court asked Mehta if the Centre’s reply would be common for all petitions in the matter.
Mehta responded that since the issue is the same, it could be common to all. However, he requested liberty to file an additional affidavit if any new issue is presented in the new plea to address. The Court allowed the request.
The Court has also allowed the formal impleadment of the Government of Delhi in the petition moved for the recognistion of same-sex marriage in the Hindu Marriage Act (Abhijit Iyer Mitra & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Anr.) following a request made to that end.
After dates were given by the Court for the filing of counter-affidavit and rejoinders, the matter was posted for further hearing in April.
Appearing in the petitions concerning Special Marriage Act and the Foreign Marriage Act, Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy urged the Court to put the matter up for hearing on an earlier date, adding that she can also argue the matter today if required.
The request for an earlier date today prompted SG Mehta to query whether there is any urgency involved.
Whereas Guruswamy responded that there is urgency in the matter, Mehta remarked, “There are more urgent and genuine issues.”
He added that the question of whether there is urgency is relative. Another counsel added that each petitioner would view their case as urgent.
The Court ultimately posted the matter for further hearing in April 20.
Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy with Advocates Saurabh Kirpal, Arundati Katju, Mukesh Sharma and Raghav Awasthi were among the lawyers who appeared today for various petitioners.
The petition with respect to Hindu Marriage Act has been preferred by Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Gopi Shankar M, Giti Thadani and G Oorvasi.
They have submitted that right to marry is part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India pointing out that the Hindu Marriage Act speaks of the solemnization of marriage between “any two Hindus”. Therefore, denying recognition to same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act is arbitrary, it has been contended.
The petition with respect to the Special Marriage Act is by Dr Kavita Arora and her partner, Ankita Khanna, while the petitioners in Foreign Marriage Act matter are Vaibhav Jain and his partner, Parag Vijay Mehta.
It is their argument that non-recognition of same-sex marriages under the Special Marriage Act and Foreign Marriage Act is a wanton act of discrimination, which strikes at the root of dignity and self-fulfilment of LGBTQ couples, it is argued.
The petitioners have submitted that denying recognition to same-sex couples amounts to violation of Articles, 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.