The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre and Chief Secretaries of all States on a petition from the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), asking for a direction to include the category of transgender people as a third category in providing various opportunities and facilities such as the voter ID card, passport, driving licence, ration card and admission to educational institutions.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra issued the notice after hearing senior counsel L. Nageswara Rao, appearing for NALSA, seeking a series of directions for the benefit of transgender people.

The NALSA petition said Article 21 of the Constitution provided fundamental right to life and personal liberty that could not be denied to transgender people. “Right to life includes right to live with human dignity and transgenders are entitled to bare necessities in life such as food, nutrition, clothes, shelter, medical facilities, right to education and to adopt children, and marry.”

It said, “Every citizen has the right to decide their sex orientation and to espouse and determine their identity including transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites and they are entitled to be considered as third and equal sex. The Citizenship Act of India uses the expression person without reference to sex. Transgenders, being citizens of India, ought to be entitled to vote and to contest elections as they are natural persons.”

Explaining the difficulties faced by such people, it said: “Many hospitals and other institutions do not admit them in women’s ward because women do not feel comfortable or free in their presence and in men’s ward they face sexual abuse. Provision of separate wards in all hospitals and other institutions is necessary.”

The NALSA said: “Various manifestations of deprivation are the consequence of the practice of recognising only two sexes-or-genders for various facilities, amenities and privileges; that is male and female. There is an urgent need for recognising the third gender that is transgender.

Treating a transgender as a legal nonentity was a violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution and it was arbitrary and discriminatory, NALSA noted and sought a direction to the Centre and States to recognise them as a third category for the purpose of conferring various benefits.

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