Deferring the matter by over four months, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday said it would hear on December 6 a plea by LGBTQ couples seeking live streaming of proceedings on a batch of petitions to recognise same-sex marriage under various laws.
The court deferred the hearing of the matter due to a paucity of time today.
The counsel for the petitioners urged the court for an early hearing in the matter and sought a shorter date.
However, a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, It is almost 5 PM. The hearing deferred to December 6. (shorter date) not possible, we are overcrowded.
Advocate Maneka Guruswamy, appearing for some of the petitioners, said there is an application for live streaming of the proceedings and pleadings are complete and the request would be for an early hearing as both sides recognise the importance of the issue.
The Centre has opposed the plea seeking live streaming saying that live telecast of these proceedings may not be advisable as it may involve sharp ideological schisms.
The Centre said in the recent past, there have been cases where even in matters which were not fully live-streamed , there has been serious unrest caused, and wild and unnecessary allegations have been levelled against sitting judges of the Supreme Court.
It is well known that judges cannot really defend themselves in public fora and their views/opinions are expressed in the judicial pronouncements, the Centre, in its fresh affidavit filed on August 20, said.
The high court had earlier expressed displeasure over the filing of an affidavit by the Centre opposing the live streaming plea, as it contained certain alleged objectionable words.
In the fresh affidavit, the Centre said that proceedings like the present one are likely to be extremely charged and will involve passionate arguments from both sides and certain arguments/comments from either lawyer or the bench may likely evoke sharp and unwanted reactions.
Such reactions may find vent either in social media or may even transgress from virtual media into the real lives of the people involved. It is also a possibility that such live streaming may be edited/ morphed and the entire sanctity of the same may be lost.
To maintain the solemnity, dignity, and seriousness of court proceedings, particularly in matters such as the present one wherein sharp ideological schisms may be present, it may be advisable that the proceedings not be telecast live, it said.
The Centre sought dismissal of the application saying live streaming can be allowed only after framing of a comprehensive framework by way of rules including for the protection of data.
The affidavit, filed through Central government standing counsel Harish Vaidyanathan Shankar, said that live streaming of proceedings is done as per the ‘Model Rules for Live Streaming’ framed under the guidance of the e-committee of the Supreme Court and the rules have been forwarded to the computer committees of various high courts for feedback and suggestion.
There already exists an extremely robust system of media reportage and the present matter is certainly one which is likely to generate considerable attention in newspapers and other media, it said.
It further said that the application is more in the nature of a direction for the implementation of the Draft Media Rules by the Delhi High Court, which is still under consideration by this court.
The high court has been hearing a batch of petitions filed by several same-sex couples seeking a declaration recognising their marriages under the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, and the Foreign Marriage Act.
A total of eight petitions have been filed in the high court on the issue.
The application for live streaming of proceedings was filed in the pending petition of Abhijit Iyer Mitra by Akhilesh Godi, Prasad Raj Dandekar, and Shripad Ranade, residents of Karnataka and Mumbai.
It sought direction to the high court registry to make arrangements to live stream the final arguments of this case via YouTube or any other platform.
Mitra and three others contended that marriages between same-sex couples are not possible despite the apex court decriminalising consensual homosexual acts and therefore, they sought a declaration to recognise such marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act.
Another plea was filed by two women seeking to get married under the Special Marriage Act and challenging provisions of the statute to the extent it does not provide for same-sex marriages.
The other was filed by two men who got married in the US but were denied registration of marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act.
The Centre has opposed same-sex marriage saying marriage in India is not just a union of two individuals but an institution between a biological man and woman and judicial interference will cause “complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws”.
(With PTI inputs)
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