Excerpt from Same-Sex Marriage Judgment

“The need to love is as important a force in human society as is the will to power. Power wants to destroy or consume or drive away the other, the one who is different, whose will is different. Love wants the other to remain, always nearby, but always itself, always other.”[1]

The goal of self-development and what it means to be human

Over the years, through dialogue both inside and outside the courts, it has been established that the negative and positive postulates of fundamental freedoms and the Constitution as a whole inter alia secure conditions for self-development at both an individual and a group level. This understanding can be traced to numerous provisions of Part III of the Constitution, the preambular values, and the jurisprudence which has emanated from Courts.

For example, Supreme Court has held that the right to live under Article 21 secures more than the right of physical existence. It includes, inter alia, the right to a quality life which has been interpreted to include the right to live in an environment free from smoke and pollution,[2] the right to access good roads,[3] and a suitable accommodation which would enable them to grow in every aspect – mental, physical, and intellectual.[4]

Similarly, it has been established that a free exchange of ideas recognized under Article 19 is an integral aspect of the right to self-development.[5] The rights against exploitation and against discrimination and untouchability secure the creation of equal spaces in public and private spheres, which is essential for self-growth.

The right to quality education without discrimination also ensures that every citizen secures basic education to develop themselves. The freedom to profess and practice religion also enables individuals to evolve spiritually.

This understanding of the Constitution is substantiated on a reading of Part IV of the Constitution. To illustrate, Article 38 states that the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people, Article 42 stipulates that the State shall endeavour to secure just and humane conditions of work, and Article 47 places a duty on the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living.

The Constitution, through both positive and negative postulations, inter alia capacitates citizens in their quest to develop themselves. Such capacity-building enables them to achieve their full potential in both the private and the public space, and to be happy.

The Indian Constitution (unlike, say, the South African Constitution) does not expressly provide that the Constitution seeks to improve the quality of life and free the potential of each person. However, such an understanding can be gleaned from the provisions of Part III and Part IV of the Constitution. Thus, one of the purposes of the rights framework is to enable the citizenry to attain the goal of self-development.

Martha C. Nussbaum laid down a list of ten capabilities which are central requirements to live a quality life- “Emotion”, “affiliation”, ‘life’, ‘bodily health’, ‘bodily integrity’, ‘senses, imagination and thought’, ‘practical reason’, ‘other species’, and ‘play’.

Martha C. Nussbaum

The first is ‘emotions’ which is characterized as follows:

“5. Emotions: Being able to have attachments to things and people outside ourselves; to love those who love and care for us, to grieve at their absence; in general, to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger. Not having one’s emotional development blighted by fear and anxiety. (Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development)”

The second is ‘affiliation’ which is characterized as follows:

“7. Affiliation: A. Being able to live with and toward others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; to be able to imagine the situation of another. (Protecting this capability means protecting institutions that constitute and nourish such forms of affiliations, and also protecting the freedom of assembly and political speech).”

The capabilities of ‘emotions’ and ‘affiliations’ identified by Nussbaum for self-development and sustaining a quality life are crucial for two important reasons-

First, both capabilities focus on the human side of a person, that is, the ability and necessity of a person to emote and form relationships and associations.

Second, the distinction between the capabilities of ‘emotions’ and ‘affiliation’ is that in the former, the emphasis is upon the agency of the individual and the freedom they have to form bonds with other people while in the latter, the emphasis is upon granting recognition to such associations.

Humans are unique in many respects. We live in complex societies, are able to think, communicate, imagine, strategize, and do more. However, that which sets us apart from other species does not by itself make us human. These qualities are necessary elements of our humanity but taken alone, they paint an incomplete picture. In addition to these qualities, our ability to feel love and affection for one another makes us human.

We may not be unique in our ability to feel the emotion of love but it is certainly a fundamental feature of our humanity. We have an innate need to see and to be seen – to have our identity, emotions, and needs fully acknowledged, recognized, and accepted. The ability to feel emotions such as grief, happiness, anger, and affection and the need to share them with others makes us who we are. As human beings, we seek companionship and most of us value abiding relationships with other human beings in different forms and capacities.

These relationships may take many forms – the natal family, cousins and relatives, friends, romantic partnerships, mentors, or students. Of these, the natal family as well as the family created with one’s life partner form the fundamental groups of society. The need and ability to be a part of a family forms a core component of our humanity.

These relationships which nourish the emotional and spiritual aspects of our humanity are important in and of themselves.

Further, they are as important to self-development as the intellectual (and eventually, financial) nourishment we receive through education. Self-development cannot be measured solely in terms of educational qualifications and financial capabilities. Such a description is to forget what makes as human.

It is insufficient if persons have the ability and freedom to form relationships unregulated by the State. For the full enjoyment of the such relationships, it is necessary that the State accord recognition to such relationships. Thus, the right to enter into a union includes the right to associate with a partner of one’s choice, according recognition to the association, and ensuring that there is no denial of access to basic goods and services is crucial to achieve the goal of self-development.


Supriya @Supriyo Chakroborty v. Union of India (2023)

[1] Margaret Trawick, Notes on Love in a Tamil Family (University of California Press 1992)

[2] MC Mehta v. Union of India, (2019) 17 SCC 490

[3] 5 State of Himachal Pradesh v. Umed Ram Sharma, (1986) 2 SCC 68

[4] Shantistar Builders v. Narayan Khimalal Totame (1990) 1 SCC 520

[5] D.C Saxena v. Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, (1996) 5 SCC 216