Central Government Forms Committee to Address Queer Community Rights Following Supreme Court Directive in 'Supriyo v Union of India'

Central Gov't forms committee, as per SC directive in 'Supriyo v Union of India', to examine queer community rights, chaired by Cabinet Secretary.

In response to the directive from the Supreme Court in "Supriyo v Union of India," the Central Government has established a six-member committee dedicated to examining various issues pertaining to the queer community. The Committee, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, consists of members from key government departments, including the Department of Home, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Legislative Department, and the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Outlined in the Centre's notification, the Committee is tasked with exploring and presenting recommendations on several critical matters:

  1. Ensuring non-discriminatory access to goods and services for the queer community by both Central and State Governments.
  2. Developing measures to safeguard queer individuals from threats of violence, harassment, or coercion.
  3. Establishing protocols to prevent queer persons from undergoing involuntary medical treatments or surgeries, including addressing mental health concerns.
  4. Ensuring equitable access to social welfare entitlements for queer individuals.
  5. Addressing any other pertinent issues as identified.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Supriyo v Union of India, delivered by a 5-judge bench, declined to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages, deferring the decision to Parliament. Additionally, the Court upheld the Special Marriage Act 1954, which does not permit the registration of same-sex marriages. However, it emphasized the need to shield LGBTQIA+ couples from harassment.

The Court acknowledged the commitment of the Solicitor General to form a committee, led by the Cabinet Secretary, to delineate the entitlements of queer couples in unions.

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, in his judgment, specified the composition and responsibilities of the Committee. He emphasized the inclusion of experts well-versed in addressing the social, psychological, and emotional needs of queer individuals, along with representatives from the queer community. The Committee is mandated to engage in extensive stakeholder consultations, involving marginalized groups and government entities at both state and union territory levels, before finalizing its decisions.

CJI Chandrachud further outlined specific considerations for the Committee to address:

  1. Granting partners in queer relationships the status of a family unit for ration card purposes and enabling joint bank accounts with nomination options.
  2. Upholding the principles established in Common Cause v. Union of India concerning medical practitioners' obligations towards terminally ill patients without Advance Directives, potentially recognizing union partners as family for consultation purposes.
  3. Affirming jail visitation rights and the right to perform last rites for deceased partners.
  4. Addressing legal implications such as succession rights, maintenance, financial benefits (e.g., under the Income Tax Act 1961), and employment-related entitlements like gratuity, family pension, and insurance.

The Committee's recommendations, as articulated by the Cabinet Secretary, are mandated for implementation at the administrative level by both the Union Government and the governments of individual states and union territories, as per the judgment's directives.