The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the Centre to respond within two weeks to a plea by LGBTQ couples who are seeking live streaming of proceedings on a batch of petitions to recognise same-sex marriages under the special, Hindu and foreign marriage laws on the grounds that the matter is of great national and constitutional importance.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla asked the central government to file its response after it was informed that the notice was issued on the application on November 30, 2021 but no reply has been filed yet.

The Court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by several same-sex couples, seeking a declaration recognising their marriages under the special, Hindu and foreign marriage laws.

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 a direction to the High Court registry to make arrangements to live stream the final arguments of this case via YouTube or any other platform.

Earlier, Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing the applicants, had submitted that in view of the rights involved, live streaming of proceedings is essential as it concerns seven to eight per cent of the total population of the country.

He had further said it was a matter of great national and constitutional importance and live streaming can host a larger population.

He had submitted that his clients represent a large section of public who are eagerly looking forward to the outcome of these cases and though a large number of people want to attend the proceedings, they are unable to do so due to limitation of technical platforms.

The counsel had said that the Supreme Court and Attorney General for India and the Bar have been in favour of live streaming of proceedings which are in national interest and these petitions fall in this category.

The application had given examples of High Courts of Gujarat, Odisha and Karnataka which have taken a lead and formulated rules for live streaming of proceedings.

Mitra and three others have contended that marriages between same sex couples are not possible despite the Supreme Court decriminalising consensual homosexual acts and sought a declaration to recognise same sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) and Special Marriage Act (SMA).

The two other pleas are, one filed by two women seeking to get married under the SMA and challenging provisions of the statute to the extent it does not provide for same sex marriages and the other filed by two men who got married in the US but were denied registration of their marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act (FMA).

Another petition seeks to allow a foreign-origin spouse of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder to apply for OCI registration regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Another petition was filed by two lesbians who have already solemnised their marriage at Varanasi in February 2018 and are seeking recognition of marriage.

A petition was filed by a transgender person who has undergone a sex reassignment surgery and entered into a civil union with her husband in South Africa and seeks recognition of the marriage.

The central government has opposed same-sex marriage on the ground that marriage in India is not just a union of two individuals but an institution between biological man and woman.

It has also said that judicial interference will cause "complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws".

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had earlier argued that a 'spouse' means either husband or wife and 'marriage' is a term associated with heterosexual couples and there was no need to file a specific reply regarding the Citizenship Act.

He had said there was some misconception of petitioners regarding the Supreme Court's verdict decriminalising consensual homosexual act.

With PTI inputs