Kar HC | Self-identification of one’s gender lies at the heart of Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty and State authorities are obligated to give legal recognition to the same; Writ Petition Allowed

Karnataka High Court: John Michael Cunha J., while allowing the present writ petition moved by a transgender against the declaration of her self identified gender in official documents, reiterated the observations made in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438 and clarified upon the applicability of Rules 6 and 7, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.

 Brief Facts

Facts of the case are enlisted objectively hereunder;

  1. That the petitioner claims to be a transgender; whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to her biologically by birth.
  2. That the birth certificate of the petitioner declares her as a male and names her as ‘Clafid Claudy Lobo’
  3. That at a very young age, the petitioner identified herself as a female and lately underwent a gender reassignment surgery on 26-07-2018, at Namaha Hospital, under the medical supervision of Dr Umang Kothari.
  4. That the petitioner thereafter changed her name from ‘Clafid Claudy Lobo’ to ‘Christina Lobo’ by executing an affidavit dated 31-10-2019.
  5. That the petitioner holds an AADHAAR card and a passport with the aforementioned name and gender female.
  6. That the respondent authorities have denied acknowledging the gender identity of the petitioner and further rejected the claim of changing the personal details over the university and pre-university certificates.
  7. That the petitioner has sought for a writ in the nature of mandamus directing respondents 2 and 3; the Department of Pre-University Education and the Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board, Bengaluru to issue a revised certificate in addition to the setting aside of order passed by respondent 4; Central Board of Secondary Education, Chennai and issue revised CBSE mark sheet showing her name as ‘Christina Lobo’. Further, the petitioner prays to issue a writ of mandamus against respondent 6 and 7; Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences and Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore to change her name and gender in the MBBS mark sheet and thereby grant revised educational records.

 Contentions

It was argued by the counsel for respondent 3, N.K. Ramesh, that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 has been promulgated by the Parliament on 05-12-2019 and as per the provisions of the said Act, a Transgender is required to make an application to the District Magistrate for issuance of a certificate of identity as a transgender person. Further, there is no provision in ‘Examination Bye-laws’ of the Board to effect change in gender and name of the students and therefore, the order passed by respondent 3 cannot be faulted with.

The counsel for the petitioner placing reliance on NALSA v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438, emphasized transgender person rights decide their self identified gender as recognized by the Supreme Court and the direction issued to the Central and State Governments granting legal recognition to the same, without fail. As per the facts of the present case, the petitioner has identified herself as a female and also undergone psychological evaluation/gender reassessment surgery. There seems no reason for denial to the petitioner’s claim as the legal position stands clear in the light of the aforementioned judgment. It was further submitted that under Article 21 of the Constitution, such denial shall be arbitrary and in violation of the Fundamental Rights enshrined under the Constitution.

 Observation

The Court, pursuant to its decision, cited the following cases;

  • National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438, “The recognition of one’s gender identity lies at the heart of the fundamental right to dignity.Gender, as already indicated, constitutes the core of one’s sense of being as well as an integral part of a person’s identity. Legal recognition of gender identity is, therefore, part of right to dignity and freedom guaranteed under our Constitution.”
  • Anuj Garg v. Hotel Assn,  of  India, (2008) 3 SCC 1, “(…) Self- determination of gender is an integral part of personal autonomy and self-expression and falls within the realm of personal liberty guaranteed  under Article 21 of the Constitution of ”

With respect to the legal recognition of third gender/transgender, the Court remarked;

  • The self-identified gender can be either male or female or third gender. Hijras are identified as persons of third gender and are not identified either as male or female. Gender identity, as already indicated, refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or a transgender, for example, Hijras do not identify as female because of their lack of female genitalia or lack of reproductive capability. This distinction makes them separate from both male and female genders and they consider themselves neither man nor woman, but a “third gender”. Hijras, therefore, belong to a distinct socio-religious and cultural group and have, therefore, to be considered as a ‘third gender’, apart from male and female.”
  • Moreover, the Court, answering contention of the respondent related to application for certificate of identity, cited, sub-rule (3) of the Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 which provides for application for issue of a certificate of identity under Rules 6 and 7. It reads as under-

 (3) “Transgender persons who have officially recorded their change in gender, whether as male, female or transgender, prior to the coming into force of the Act shall not be required to submit an application for certificate of identity under these rules: Provided that such persons shall enjoy all rights and entitlements conferred on transgender persons under the Act”.

  •  Since the identity of the petitioner is officially recorded in the AADHAAR card issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the passport issued by the Central Government, in view of Rule 3 of Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, the petitioner is not required to make an application for certificate of her identity.

Decision

While allowing the present writ petition, the Court reiterated the Constitutional safeguards accorded to the third gender and issued requisite order to the respondent authorities.[Christina Lobo v. State of Karnataka, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1634, decided on 1-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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