Debayan N. Sen explains the purpose of a recent petition filed in the Calcutta High Court to address the livelihood concerns of transgender people
I have read about a PIL being filed on transgender rights in newspapers. What does the petition hope to achieve when there is already a transgender development body in West Bengal?
The public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Calcutta High Court on November 15, 2017 is focussed on the issue that despite the judgment delivered by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India and Others (NALSA), which recognized the rights of transgender persons to equality, freedom and dignity under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, transgender people continue to be denied opportunities in the arena of public service recruitment in governmental department examinations.
Such denial contravenes the NALSA judgment where the apex court directed “. . . the Centre and the State Governments to take steps to treat them [transgender persons] 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.”
The West Bengal Transgender Development Board was formed with the objective of facilitating such directions in coordination with the state and central governments. But despite the board’s existence since 2015, even basic changes that would enable equality of opportunity for the members of the transgender communities have not been provided for.
The petition contends that the board being the Respondent No. 3 in the PIL has miserably failed to perform its function and its purpose. Just the basic issue of providing aspiring students from the transgender communities to fill up the online or offline registration forms for governmental department examinations with their preferred gender option has been completely denied. Because of the incomplete options present in the forms many community members have not been able to seize the opportunity of competing in the examinations.
This minor rectification could have been done by the board, but that being not so shows that its priorities seem to lie elsewhere. Hence the PIL has prayed for a direction from the court to the authorities to provide the ‘third gender’ option in all of the examination forms. This will enable the members of the transgender communities to compete on an equal footing.