SC notice to Centre on plea against Transgender Act

Supreme Court notice to Centre on plea against Transgender Act, 2019

Members from the transgender community take part in the 6th 'Pink Rally' organised by 'Kinnar Maa ek Samajik Sanstha', in Mumbai, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Union government on a plea challenging the validity of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 for restricting rights of such people from self-identification to making it conditional to a certificate issued by the district magistrate.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant sought a response from the Centre on a writ petition filed by Swati Bidhan Baruah, a transgender activist, who termed the law as completely arbitrary, irrational and discriminatory, for prescribing punishment of six months imprisonment for sexual abuse of a transperson, though the provision of rape carried the maximum punishment of life term.

The petitioner, represented by senior advocate Anitha Shenoy, sought a declaration that the 2019 Act was ultra vires to the Constitution, for violating the fundamental rights to equality, non-discrimination, and life and liberty. It contended Section 7 of the law violated the right to life with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 since in cases where a transgender person underwent a gender-affirming surgery, it was required to be certified by a medical officer in addition to the district magistrate.

“Section 4 to 7 of the Act constituted disproportionate interferences with the right to privacy of a transperson. The right to privacy in respect of gender identity and sexual orientation protects the most intimate sphere of a person's individuality and personhood,” it contended.

The petitioner cited the SC's landmark judgement recognising the right to privacy in the Justice K S Puttaswamy judgement, among others, in support of the plea. She also relied upon the SC's another judgement in the case of NALSA Vs Union of India (2014) directing the Centre to grant legal recognition to the transgenders and take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.