The Supreme Court was hearing same-sex marriage case for the ninth day.
The Centre Wednesday told the Supreme Court it has received responses from seven states on the issue of same-sex marriage and the governments of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Assam have opposed the petitioners' contention seeking legal validation for such wedlock.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud that states like Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Sikkim have said the issue needed a "very intense and expansive debate" and they would not be able to submit their responses immediately.
The Centre had, in an affidavit filed in the court earlier, said it had issued a letter on April 18 to all states inviting comments and views on the "seminal issue" raised in these petitions.
"At the outset, I had said that we have written letters to the state governments. There are seven responses, I am not reading them, from Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Sikkim and Rajasthan. I am placing them on record," Mehta told the bench, which also comprised Justices SK Kaul, SR Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, on Wednesday.
"Rajasthan takes the position that we have examined it and we are opposed to the position which the petitioners are taking," he said, adding some states have said the issue needed a "very intense and expansive debate and we would not be able to respond immediately." The bench was hearing arguments for the ninth day on a batch of petitions seeking legal validation for same-sex marriage. The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on Thursday.
On April 19, the Centre had urged the court that all states and Union Territories be made party to the proceedings, saying any decision on the issue without obtaining their view would render the present "adversarial exercise incomplete and truncated".
Responding to the Centre's letter for views of the state governments on this issue, the state of Manipur has said its views or comments on this matter will require detailed assessment on the existing social customs, practices, values, rules etc that may be prevalent in different sections of the society.
"Therefore, the state government would like to seek more time for proper examination for furnishing the views/comments on the matter," said a communication from the Deputy Secretary (Law) of Manipur to the Secretary of the Department of Legal Affairs, Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
Similarly, in its communication to the Union Law Ministry, the state of Andhra Pradesh said it has consulted the heads of various religions in the state on same-sex marriage.
Referring to their opinions, the special chief secretary to the government of Andhra Pradesh has said, "After considering the above views, I am to inform that the state of Andhra Pradesh is against the same sex marriage and/or persons belonging to LGBTQIA community".
In its communication to the Union Law Ministry, the state of Uttar Pradesh has said the question involved in these petitions is a "sensitive subject" affecting various sections of the society and different religious denominations.
"The state government cannot formulate its comprehensive response without wide consultation with all sections of the society. Hence, it would not be possible for the state government to provide any comprehensive response in such a short period of time," it said, while seeking additional time to prepare a proper response.
The Maharashtra government, in its communication to the Union Law Ministry, has said the state would have to hold detailed and meaningful consultations with a cross section of society.
"It is submitted that the issue involved in the present batch of petitions is rather sensitive and would potentially affect a cross section of the society in the State of Maharashtra cutting through various religious sections," it said.
It said in the absence of complete material, including the pleadings of various parties before the apex court, the state would not be in a position to come up with a comprehensive response, touching on all the aspects of the matter at such short notice.
The state of Assam has told the Union Law Ministry that the subject invokes new interpretations and challenges the validity of laws concerning marriage and personal laws enforced in the state with diverse cultures, creed, customs and religions.
It said while the matter calls for wide-ranging discussion on various aspects of the institution of marriage as a social phenomenon, it may be said that even across societies, the legal understanding of marriage has been that of an agreement/contract between two persons of opposite genders.
"Further, it would be prudent to maintain that legislation is the prerogative of legislature, at Centre and in states, and the courts may like to view the matter in accordance with core principles of our democratic structure. The Legislature reflects the collective wisdom of the nation and its citizens, and it solely possesses the power to enact a law governing human relationships," the Assam government has said.
It said marriage, divorce and ancillary subjects fall under entry 5 of Concurrent list of the Constitution and hence, it is also in the domain of the state legislature in a manner that it is in the domain of Parliament.
"The state government which is not made a party in the instant litigation while the ramifications clearly affect the state, would therefore also request for copies of the documents, pleadings, etc., made before Supreme Court, so that it can reasonably advance its necessary views before the court at the earliest," it said.
"On the basis of the above, the state government would like to oppose the views in the matter as laid out by petitioners... before Supreme Court of India and also requests for providing reasonable time and opportunity to place its views further," the state has said.
The Sikkim government has told the Union Law Ministry that the state is actively considering the matter and is constituting a committee to conduct an in-depth study to assess the ramifications of same-sex marriages on social customs, practices, values and norms after due consultation with all the stakeholders.
"In view of the above, it is hereby informed that the state government shall submit its view/comments once the Committee submits a report to the government," it said.
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