(File photo)
(File photo)

Two same-sex couples move Delhi HC for recognition of marriages

Two same-sex couples have moved the Delhi high court seeking legal recognition for their marriages, arguing that the lack of formal acceptance of their union under Indian laws was a violation of their constitutional rights.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON OCT 09, 2020 06:44 AM IST

Two same-sex couples have moved the Delhi high court seeking legal recognition for their marriages, arguing that the lack of formal acceptance of their union under Indian laws was a violation of their constitutional rights.

The petitions were heard on Thursday by justice Navin Chawla, who directed that they be listed before the chief justice of the high court, who is already hearing a petition seeking recognition of same sex unions under the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act. The next hearing is scheduled on October 14.

A petition seeking the recognition of gay marriage under the Special Marriage Act pending before the high court.

The two petitioners were represented by senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy and advocates Arundhati Katju, Govind Manoharan and Surabhi Dhar. Guruswamy and Katju were among the lawyers who successfully convinced the Supreme Court to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized homosexuality, in 2018.

The first petition was filed by two mental health professionals -- Kavita Arora, 47 and Ankita Khanna, 36 -- who said they had been living together as a couple for eight years, were in love with each other and sharing the highs and lows of life, but unable to marry as both were women.

“They share the highs, the lows, the joys and sorrows of life; they go through the wear and tear of living together; they have the deep, unbreakable bond of two people who have come together in love. The petitioners are like any other couple you might meet, except they are both women,” their petition read.

The second petition was filed by two men – Vaibhav Jain, an Indian citizen, and Parag Vijay Mehta, an overseas citizen of India, who got married in the United States in 2017. An Indian consulate refused to register their union this year under the 1969 Foreign Marriage Act.

The couple, who were in a relationship since 2012 and were supported by their families and friends, also claimed during the Covid-19 pandemic, non-recognition of their marriage prevented them from travelling as a married couple to India.

“The petitioners submit that non-recognition of same-sex marriages is a wanton act of discrimination that strikes at the root of dignity and self-fulfillment of LGBTQ {lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) couples,” the petition read.

The two women said that things like opening a joint bank account, buying family health insurance, or securing address proof – things that a married couple takes for granted – were a struggle for them. On September 30, they approached the marriage officer (the sub-divisional magistrate, South East Delhi, Kalkaji) seeking solemnization of their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

“The marriage officer would have solemnized the marriage of any similarly placed opposite-sex couple. Sexual orientation discrimination is constitutionally prohibited under Article 15, but the petitioners were refused the right to marry a person of their choice on grounds of their sexual orientation alone,” they said.

The petitions argued that the non-recognition of marriage between LGBTQ persons violated the fundamental rights of liberty, equality, life and freedom of expression guaranteed to them by the Supreme Court judgment, Navtej Johar vs Union of India, which decriminalised adult, consensual same-sex relations in 2018.

The Delhi high court is already hearing a petition filed by defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra and three others. In response to that petition, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said last month that Indian values didn’t recognise same-sex unions.

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