On May 17, 2022, the Ministry of Law and Justice submitted to the Delhi High Court an affidavit in response to the application which seeks live streaming of the proceedings in the case regarding recognition and registration of same sex marriages in the country.
The Centre has opposed live streaming of the proceedings arguing that neither does the matter involve violation of any fundamental right, nor is it a matter of national importance. It has been urged in the reply that the permission for live streaming of the proceeding should not be granted as it would not serve any purpose.
The application for live streaming was filed by three professionals based out of Mumbai and Karnataka, in the petition filed by Abhijit Iyer Mitra seeking registration of marriages of LGBTQIA couples under the Hindu Marriage Act.
Contents of the reply
The Ministry had claimed that the applicant is trying to create unnecessary hype of the matter. As reported by the Live Law, the Centre’s response states, “A matter needs to be agitated by the party on merits and the court to decide on the basis of law and facts and not soliciting or evoking public attention. The applicant is attempting to create unnecessary hype of the matter being considered by this Court.”
The reply relies upon the case Swapnil Tripathi v/s. Supreme Court of India for the live streaming of court proceedings in the matters which are of Constitutional and National importance. The response further states, “The instant matter is not a fit case where live streaming of the proceeding is desirable as it affects the cause of administration of justice. Before allowing live streaming of proceeding appropriate regulatory framework needs to be put in place. It is further submitted that the Union of India reserves the right to file a more detailed affidavit in reply to the present application with the leave of this Hon’ble Court, if necessary, at a later stage as the present affidavit has been filed in the limited time available with the Respondent.”
The reply further adds that the majority of the Indian population is not affected by the present matter and states that the applicant is trying to create a dramatic impression of the proceedings. “Dispensation of justice does not have any bearing on the number of persons who watch the court proceedings or subscribing to the YouTube Channel showing such proceedings The Hon’ble Court does not opt for or seek public appreciation while dealing with matters involving questions of law and facts Social reach of the live streaming cannot be a part of dispensation of justice,” the reply states, as quoted by Live Law.
The reply also states that the sole intention of the applicant is to sensationalise the whole matter by making it a subject of public interest. “Merit of a matter in the court and its outcome does not depend on any melodrama that the applicant proposes to bring in and hence the application is with ulterior motive. The applicant is attempting to utilise the judicial forum to generate public sympathy and to open vista for unwanted attention to the issue. This Hon’ble court does not require larger outreach or any larger audience than what is already available to the proceedings that are undertaken on day to day basis,” the reply reads as quoted by Live Law.
As reported by Live Law, the reply also states, “The applicant is trying to turn away from the legal and constitutional infirmities of the writ petition and to attempt wrong interpretation to the concept of open justice propounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The desire of the applicant is to attract global attention to certain cause he believes he has.”
On May 17, 2021, the Delhi High Court’s Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla expressed their displeasure at the objectionable comments made by the Ministry of Law and Justice in their reply in affidavit, opposing the live streaming of the proceedings.
According to the Live Law report, Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul for the petitioners expressed his anguish and submitted that the Centre may have its reservations to live-streaming. However, the language used in the affidavit is derogatory and demeans the rights of a particular segment of the society.
The Division Bench refused to accept the reply in affidavit on record and directed the Centre to file a better reply. LiveLaw reported that the Bench orally remarked, “If there is anything objectionable in the affidavit, you (counsel) don’t have to file it. Such affidavit cannot directly come from the Union Ministry. These things must be vetted. Don’t do a mindless exercise. This is not done.”
The Counsel representing the Centre assured the Court that they will come out with a better reply before the next date. The Bench then kept the next hearing of the matter on August 20, 2022.
About the Petition
The Petition filed by Abhijit Iyer Mitra is for the recognition of marriages of LGBTQIA couples in Hindu Marriage Act. The Petition urged the recognition of the right of same-sex couples to get marry, as Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act does not discriminate between homosexual and heterosexual couples.
Similar Petition about homosexual marriage was filed by Dr. Kavita Arora. The Petition claims about the fundamental rights to choose one’s own partner for marriage guaranteed under Article 21, also extends to same-sex couples as well. She had sought a direction from the High Court to the Marriage officer, South East Delhi, for solemnizing her marriage with her choice of partner under the Special Marriage Act.
Another similar Petition is filed by an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), Joydeep Sengupta and his Partner Russell Blaine Stephens. The Petition, according to LiveLaw, pleads for a declaration from the Court that “a spouse of foreign origin of an Indian Citizen or OCI cardholder is entitled to apply for registration as an OCI under the Citizenship Act regardless of the gender, sex or sexual orientation of the applicant spouse.” This Petition in the support of his plea states that section 7A (1)(d) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 does not discriminate among heterosexual, same-sex or queer spouses, a person married to an Overseas Citizen of India, whose marriage is registered and subsisting for two years, should be declared eligible to apply as a spouse for an OCI card.
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