SC Ruling: Judges Should Not Alter Couples' Views or Sexual Orientation

Judges Should Not Attempt to Change Couples’ Views or Sexual Orientation says SC in its guidelines to HC

The Supreme Court of India has ruled in a landmark decision that High Courts must follow when considering habeas corpus petitions or requests for police protection, especially when they involve LGBTQ+ individuals. This ruling is the result of a woman’s challenge against a Kerala High Court ruling requiring her alleged lesbian partner to attend therapy. The Supreme Court stated that these orders may have a deterring impact and cause LGBTQ+ people to suffer.

Facts of the case:

The case arose when a woman (the petitioner) claimed that her parents were unlawfully detaining her lesbian partner and filed a habeas corpus petition. The spouse was ordered to receive counseling by the Kerala High Court during its consideration of the plea. The petitioner filed a challenge against this order with the Supreme Court.

Petitioner’s Argument:

The petitioner contended that the Kerala High Court’s counseling order was detrimental in addition to needless because it could have caused her partner severe distress. She argued that these guidelines were discriminatory and infringed against the fundamental rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Respondent’s Argument:

The respondents defended, stating that the counseling was in their daughter’s best interest, against the High Court’s order. They contended that the counseling order was intended to ensure their daughter’s well-being and that she needed expert assistance to better understand her circumstances.

Court’s Observation:

The Supreme Court, made  the following significant observations:

  • Deterrent Impact of Counseling: The Court observed that counseling mandates may cause members of the LGBTQ+ community pain and act as a deterrent.
  • Queer-Sensitive Conduct: The Court stressed that while dealing matters of this nature, one must use an empathic and queer-sensitive attitude.
  • Broader Definition of Family: The Court made it clear that friends and intimate partners are included in the definition of “family,” which is important for LGBTQ+ people who may experience violence and lack of protection from their birth families.

Court’s Decision:

The Supreme Court issued comprehensive guidelines for High Courts to follow when dealing with habeas corpus petitions or petitions for police protection:

  1. Priority in Listing and Hearing: Habeas corpus petitions and petitions for protection filed by a partner, friend, or natal family member must be prioritized in listing and hearing.
  2. Evaluation of Locus Standi: Courts should not conduct detailed inquiries into the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and the person.
  3. Conducive Environment: Courts must create an environment conducive to free and uncoerced dialogue.
  4. In-Camera Proceedings: The corpus must be produced before the court and given the opportunity to interact with judges in chambers to ensure privacy and safety.
  5. Prevention of Undue Influence: Courts must ensure that the corpus’s wishes are not influenced by the court, police, or natal family.
  6. Comfortable Environment: Detained or missing persons should be put at ease, using their preferred names and pronouns and ensuring their comfort.
  7. Consideration of Age: While the age of the detained person can be ascertained, minorities should not be grounds for dismissing a habeas corpus petition against illegal detention by a natal family.
  8. Empathy and Compassion: Judges must show empathy and avoid homophobic or transphobic views, ensuring the law ascertains the free will of the detained person.
  9. Immediate Release: If the detained person wishes not to return to the detainer or natal family, they should be released immediately.
  10. Protection for Intimate Partners: Courts should grant interim measures like police protection to intimate partners facing social stigma.
  11. No Counseling Directions: Courts should not direct counseling or parental care when the corpus is produced.
  12. Respect for Identity: Courts must respect sexual orientation and gender identity, avoiding any pejorative comments.

The Supreme Court further underlined that in order to defend the fundamental rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ people, these rules must be adhered to in full.


The Kerala High Court’s counseling directives were overturned by the Supreme Court, highlighting the need of judges having compassion and respect for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. By upholding the fundamental rights and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community, this ruling seeks to guarantee the equitable and constitutionally compliant handling of habeas corpus petitions and police protection pleas involving its members.

Deeksha Rai

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