Central government to respond on pleas to recognise same-sex marriage

The Delhi High Court Friday granted a last opportunity to the Centre and the Delhi government to respond to three separate pleas, including by two couples, seeking that same-sex marriage be recognised by law. A bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Sanjeev Narula which had earlier issued notice and directed the centre and Delhi governments to file replies, said, “one last opportunity be given to the respondents to file counter affidavits within three weeks”. The court listed the matter for further hearing on February 25, after the Centre’s counsel submitted that they have received instructions from concerned officers last week and need some time to file the reply. In the first petition, Abhijit Iyer Mitra and three others have contended that marriages between same sex couples are not possible despite the Supreme Court decriminalising consensual homosexual acts and sought a declaration to recognise same sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) and Special Marriage Act (SMA). The two other pleas are–one filed by two women seeking to get married under the SMA and challenging provisions of the statute to the extent it does not provide for same sex marriages, and the other by two men who got married in the US but were denied registration of their marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act (FMA). The high court had earlier sought responses of the central and Delhi governments on the pleas filed by Mitra and the two women. It also asked the Centre and the Consulate General of India in New York to respond to the petition by the two men. The petition filed by equal rights activists Mitra, Gopi Shankar M, Giti Thadani and G Oorvasi contended that homosexuality has been decriminalised by the apex court but same sex marriages are still not being allowed under the HMA provisions. “This is despite the fact that the said Act does not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual marriage if one were to go by how it has been worded. It very clearly states that marriage can indeed be solemnised between ‘any two Hindus’.