The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to find a way to give same-sex couples basic social benefits, like joint bank accounts or nominating a partner in insurance policies, even without legal recognition of their marital status.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud observed that when court says recognition it need not be recognition as marriage, it may mean recognition which entitles them to certain benefits, and the association of two people need not be equated to marriage. The apex court appeared to accept that legal sanction for same-sex marriage is under Parliament's domain.
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that once you say that right to cohabit is a fundamental right, then it is the obligation of the state that all social impact of the cohabitation has a legal recognition, and court is not going into marriage at all.
The Chief Justice said the court wants some element of a broad sense of coalition and the court is also conscious about the fact that there is so much that representative democracy should also achieve in the country. The bench said there will be social requirements such as banking, insurance, admissions, etc where the Centre will have to do something.
Mehta said the government may consider tackling some of the issues, same-sex couples are facing without granting the legal recognition.The top court asked Centre to come back on May 3, with its response on social benefits that same-sex couples could be granted even without legal recognition of their marital status.
The Chief Justice told Mehta, "We take your point that if we enter this arena...you have made a very powerful argument that you'll be legislating...and this is for the Parliament, this will be an arena of the legislature... So, now what?" The bench queried what does the government want to do with cohabited relations?
The bench further queried Mehta, how a sense of security and social welfare is made? And also ensure that such relations are not ostracised in the society. The top court is hearing a batch of pleas seeking legal sanction for same-sex marriages.