AP HC| LGBTQ+ community’s right to reservation; Can a transgender claim to be appointed by reservation in spite of failure to secure minimum cut off marks in screening test? HC answers

Andhra Pradesh High Court: In a significant case wherein, a transgender had approached the Court seeking benefit of reservation for appointment in police department, M. Satyanarayana Murthy, J., denies to issue direction to the State in favour of the petitioner. The Bench, however, remarked,

 

“The State is unconscious of the directions issued by NALSA and failed to provide a specific column meant for gender identity for transgender in the proforma of application in the Notification dated 01.11.2018 and did not provide any reservation to transgenders, as they are socially and educationally backward and not in a position to compete with ordinary men and women.”

 

Factual Matrix

In the instant case, one Matam Gangabhavani, a transgender approached the Court seeking to declare Notification vide Rc.No.216/R&T/Rect.1/2018 dated 01-11-2018 as illegal, arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution as it did not make any provision for reservation of appointment of transgender persons contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438. The petitioner also urged for a direction to the respondents-Police Recruitment Board to make appropriate provision for transgender persons and further direct the respondents to appoint the petitioner on the post of Stipendiary Cadet Trainee Sub-Inspector of Police on the vacant post, kept apart for the petitioner in terms of High Court order dated 13-02-2018.

 

The petitioner, a male by birth, underwent Sexual Reassignment Surgery in the year 2003. The case of the petitioner was that pursuant to the recruitment notification, the petitioner applied for the post of Stipendiary Cadet Trainee, however since there were only two categories provided for disclosure of gender namely, “Male” and “Female” the petitioner was forced to mention identity as female while registering for the examination.

 

Though, the petitioner appeared for the first round of recruitment process i.e Preliminary Written Test, could not obtain minimum required marks. Therefore, the petitioner claimed benefit of reservation by relying on the decision of NALSA v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438 by contending that there is reservation for various categories of castes, yet no reservation is provided for transgenders category; despite the transgenders being the most disadvantaged class who cannot compete with male or female genders. Finally, it was contended that, when the petitioner was the sole transgender appeared for the examination, though identifying as female, the petitioner must be selected by providing reservation in the light of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

 

Case before Central Administrative Tribunal

The petitioner filed O.A.No.23 of 2019 before Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal challenging the impugned Notification, however the same was dismissed on the following grounds:

“a) That the recruitment as per the notification is being proceeded with respect to men and women vacancies only;

b) The notification is not a general notification for applications from all gender and that the notification is gender specific;

c) When the notification for recruitment is gender specific, a transgender person is not entitled to compete for the said post along with men and women.

d) The reliefs claimed in O.A.No.23 of 2019 relate to decisions to be taken by the Government concerned in the Constitution of India as well as specific laws relating to recruitment and appointment to public post.”

 

Observations and Opinion

Observing that concept of “proportional equality” expects the States to take affirmative action in favour of disadvantaged sections of the society within the legal framework of liberal democracy, the Bench stated that the petitioner being a transgender was entitled for proportional equality as the State is expected to take affirmative action in favour of disadvantaged section of the society, and the transgenders are cursed by everyone; living in distressed condition and are being put to harassment in different ways, both physically, mentally and sexually by different persons. The Bench added,

“More so, their number is minimum in the State, but they are not being provided proportional equality in the employment and are totally neglected by the State without providing even a column in the application form for gender identity of transgender, thereby, it amounts to denial of an opportunity in employment treating them unequals with men and women.”

 

Therefore, the Bench held that such discrimination of transgender from men and women could be said to be arbitrariness, being opposed to reasonableness, and antithesis to law. Hence, the Bench stated, failure to provide sufficient opportunity in the employment by providing a specific column for identity of third gender in all employment notifications, treating them as equals with men and women and failure to provide employment to them, though they are eligible is nothing but arbitrariness in the State’s action.

“Though, transgender is a person recognized in the epics, the lawmakers, including the Constitutional framers did not take note of their existence and treatment of transgenders on par with others.”

 

Whether the Notification was Illegal and Arbitrary?

Since the impugned Notification was issued based on the subsisting rules of reservation in the State, strictly adhering to the subsisting rules, the Bench held that the notification could not be declared as illegal and arbitrary. Even to construe that the respondent violated the direction issued by the Supreme Court in NALSA v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438, the direction was only to take steps for providing reservation to transgenders based on their social and educational backwardness, it was only a positive obligation on the State and in the absence of any steps taken by the State, failure of its instrumentalities to provide reservation to transgenders did not make the notification impugned in this writ petition invalid. At best, such failure may attract contempt being filed before the competent court.

Hence, the Bench held that there was no ground to declare the impugned notification as illegal or arbitrary.

 

Analysis and Findings

In NALSA v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438., the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and State Governments to take steps to provide reservations to transgenders in employment and to take steps to treat the transgenders as Socially and Educationally backward Classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments. Hence, the direction issued by the Supreme Court was only to the extent of taking steps to treat transgenders as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, but not for creating reserving particular percentage of posts to transgenders.

 

Though a clarification was issued by the Principal Secretary to Government, Home (Legal.II) Department vide Memo.No.830231/Legal.II/A1/2020 dated 29-09-2020, for appointment of meritorious, eligible transgender person either against a woman vacancy or man vacancy, based on merit, since there are no reservations for transgenders, the Bench held that the aforementioned Memo would not extend any such benefit to the transgender persons in terms of the judgment in NALSA v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438.

 

Differentiating the case of K. Pritika Yashini v. Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board, 2015 SCC OnLine Mad 11830, wherein a minor relaxation was given to the transgender woman who had qualified in all the tests, the Bench stated that the same had no application to the case of the petitioner for the reason that the petitioner did not qualify herself even in the preliminary examination, having secured 28% in Paper-I and 21% in Paper-II. Opining that if, for any reason, the petitioner secured marks and got through the preliminary examination and if there is any variation in the physical tests, the principle laid down in the above judgments could be applied, the Bench stated,

“The intellectual levels of men, women and transgender may vary to a little extent. But the Rules did not permit appointment of transgender without securing minimum qualifying mark.”

 

Further, even the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 are silent regarding provision for reservation in public employment or any government establishments to transgender persons. Therefore, the Bench held that the Court could not issue any direction to provide reservation to the petitioner based on sex or social status, more so, when a direction was issued by the Supreme Court to extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.

 

Verdict

Considering that the direction issued by the Supreme Court in NALSA v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438 is suffice to provide reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments, the Bench refused to issue any direction to the State to provide reservations to transgender. However, the directions were made to the State to study the representation of transgenders for public employment, their number in the State, benefits extended to them without discriminating from men and women and provide necessary reservations if they are not represented adequately in the public employment.

Further, since the minimum marks were not fixed based on gender, but based on social status, more particularly, their backwardness and inadequacy of their representation in the public employment, the Bench denied to issue direction to the respondents for selection of the petitioner as Stipendiary Cadet Trainee Sub-Inspector. Consequently, the petition was dismissed. [Matam Gangabhavani v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2022 SCC OnLine AP 200, decided on 21-01-2022]

Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: M Solomon Raju, Advocate

For the State: Additional Advocate General II


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has out this report together

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