NEW DELHI: A plea by LGBTQ couples requesting live-streaming of proceedings before the Delhi High Court on a series of petitions to have same-sex marriages recognized under various laws was rejected by the center on the grounds that the matter was not of national concern .
The Center stated in its affidavit that the applicants were trying to create a dramatic impression of the court proceedings and to gain sympathy.
The case law does not affect the number of people who watch the trials or subscribe to the YouTube channel that streams such trials, it said.
“The court does not decide or seek public acknowledgment when dealing with matters of law and fact. The social reach of live streaming cannot be part of the jurisdiction.”
“Comparing India to live streaming of court cases in countries like the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, China and South Africa is misplaced, as is the International Court of Justice,” the affidavit reads.
The matter is likely to be heard before a bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla on Tuesday.
The court dealt with a number of petitions filed by several same-sex couples seeking a declaration recognizing their marriages under the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Foreign Marriage Act.
A total of eight petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Court on this subject.
The request for live streaming of the proceedings was filed in Abhijit Iyer Mitra’s pending petition by Akhilesh Godi, Prasad Raj Dandekar and Shripad Ranade, residents of Karnataka and Mumbai.
It sought instructions to the High Court Clerk to arrange for the final arguments of this case to be live streamed via YouTube or another platform.
The center denied the application, moving to have it dismissed on the grounds that live streaming could only be allowed after a comprehensive framework of regulations, including data protection, had been worked out.
“The present matter is not an appropriate case where live streaming of the proceedings is desirable as it concerns the administration of justice. An appropriate legal framework must be put in place before live streaming of the proceedings can be permitted,” the affidavit states.
It said the complainants’ purpose appeared to be unfaithful as they sought to gain unnecessary publicity and attract unwanted public attention and every matter that comes to court is important and every matter may not be live streamed and feasible is possible.
The affidavit added that granting permission to live stream in this matter serves no purpose and must be encouraged by the party in the matter and the court to decide based on law and facts and not soliciting public attention or to evoke.
It alleged that the applicant had attempted to create unnecessary hype about the matter dealt with by that court.
The affidavit said the Supreme Court categorically held that live-streaming was feasible on matters of national concern.
“The present case is neither a violation of fundamental rights nor a violation of national importance,” it said.
It went on to say that the “majority of the Indian population is not very affected by the present matter and the related proceedings”.
The Supreme Court had previously ordered the center to respond to the live-streamed request, which found the matter to be of major national and constitutional importance.
The applicants’ lawyer had previously said that the Supreme Court, the Attorney General for India and the Bar Association favor the live streaming of proceedings which are in the national interest and these petitions fall into this category.
The motion had provided examples of the High Courts of Gujarat, Odisha and Karnataka taking a lead and formulating rules for the live streaming of proceedings.
Mitra and three others have claimed that marriages between same-sex couples are not possible despite the Supreme Court decriminalizing consensual homosexual acts, and have sought a declaration recognizing such marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act.
Another objection was raised by two women who wished to marry under the Special Marriage Act and questioned the provisions of the Act where same-sex marriages are not permitted.
The other was filed by two men who had married in the United States but were refused registration of their marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act.
Another petition aims to allow a foreign spouse of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder to apply for OCI registration regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Two lesbians who “married” in Varanasi in February 2018 have also applied for recognition of their marriage.
A petition has also been submitted by a transgender person who has undergone gender reassignment surgery and is registered in a civil partnership with her husband in South Africa, seeking recognition of the marriage.
The central government has opposed same-sex marriage on the grounds that marriage in India is not just a union between two people, but an institution between a biological male and a biological female.
It has also said that judicial intervention will “utterly upset the delicate balance of personal law.”