Centre’s fresh reply to HC: Live telecast could draw sharp reactions, not advisable

Hearings in the same-sex marriages case are likely to be “extremely charged” and could draw sharp reactions from the public, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court, in a fresh reply detailing its opposition to a plea seeking live relay of proceedings in the matter.

In the written reply dated August 20, the Centre has also told the HC that live streaming of court proceedings can be allowed only after framing a comprehensive framework by way of rules for protection of data.

“Certain arguments/ comments from either lawyers or from 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,” the reply stated.

Presenting its case, the government said there exists an “extremely robust system of media reportage” in the country and the case will “certainly generate considerable attention”.

Even in past cases where proceedings were not “fully live-streamed”, it added, “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 government reply said, adding there is also a possibility live-streamed content may be “edited or morphed”.

“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,” the reply stated.

The government has further said the petitioners are already represented and their lawyers are likely to transmit updates regarding the hearings to them. It also said the application seeking live telecast of the hearings “is more in the nature of a direction for the implementation of the Draft Media Rules” which are still under consideration of the Delhi High Court.

The Centre’s fresh reply came over three months after the HC’s Division Bench, presided by then acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi, had asked it to file a “better affidavit”.

The Bench had taken exception to the government’s reply alleging that the plea seeking live relay of the same-sex case was aimed at “creating a dramatic impression of the proceedings and to win sympathy”.

The petitioners’ counsel, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, had then told the court the Centre had demeaned the rights of same-sex couples and that there should be consequences for using such words.

At least eight petitions are pending before the court seeking legalization of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act, the Foreign Marriage Act and a declaration that the right to legal recognition of a same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21, irrespective of a person’s gender, sex or sexual orientation.

Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the Centre has argued that marriage in India necessarily depends upon “age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos and societal values” and that living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same-sex individuals is “not comparable” with the “Indian family unit concept… of husband, wife and children”.

It also said that there exists a “legitimate state interest” in limiting the recognition of marriage to persons of the opposite sexes only.

The case is now listed for hearing on Wednesday.

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