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Delhi HC directs Central to decide representations on recognizing transgenders as third gender for travelling in Capital

Delhi HC directs Central to decide representations on recognizing transgenders as third gender for travelling in Capital

Recently, Delhi High Court asked the managing director of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to remain present before it or decide within one month a representation seeking legal recognition of transgender persons as third gender in bus tickets.

A single-judge bench of Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, while hearing a plea seeking initiation of civil contempt proceedings against the Delhi government and the DTC for wilful disobedience of an October 19, 2022, order of the division bench of the high court.

The order had directed them to decide the representation for legally recognising them as the third gender in bus tickets issued in DTC buses and to provide them with free tickets for travelling within four months.

The direction was passed in a PIL filed by a transgender person. It stated that persons from the transgender community face extreme hardship every time they have to purchase a physical ticket in a bus as their gender is not recognised by the DTC.

The PIL stated that transgender persons not only have to choose a gender they might not recognise, but they are also left at the mercy of the bus conductor. The petitioner had claimed that when people from the transgender community choose their gender as female, the bus conductor refuses to issue them tickets as the conductor perceives them as belonging to the male gender. They are then accused of commuting for free as the DTC provides physical bus tickets to females free of cost, causing them trauma and pain.

Justice Arora, in its April 21 order, in the contempt case noted that the direction issued by the division bench through the Delhi government is “limited to taking a decision on the representation of the Petitioner and therefore, the Respondent’s inaction and non-consideration of the said representation for more than six months is certainly protracted”.

Justice Arora granted one “last opportunity”, directing the respondents to comply with the orders of the division bench within one month, failing which the DTC MD should remain in the court on the next hearing date. The matter was next listed on August 18.

The PIL placed reliance on a 2014 decision of the Supreme Court’s decision in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, which upheld the right of the transgender community to decide their self-identified gender and directed the Centre and state governments to grant legal recognition to their gender identity.

The apex court, in its reasoning, had observed that Article l9(l)(a) of the Indian Constitution grants a person the right to choose their gender identity, holding, “…We, therefore, hold that values of privacy, self identity autonomy and personal integrity are fundamental rights guaranteed to the members of the transgender community under Article 19(l)(a) of the Constitution of India and the State is bound to protect and recognise those rights.”

Dr Amit George, who had appeared for the PIL petitioner, had submitted that a representation was made by the petitioner in August with the Delhi government but the same had gone unanswered. He had also argued that there was a similar petition filed in the high court in March 2020 an d a division bench passed directions to the Delhi government to decide the issue, but no decision had been taken.

The division bench, while issuing the direction, had also granted liberty to the PIL petitioner to approach the high court if they were aggrieved by the decision.

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