No need to submit surgical reconstruction certificates for change of sex in passports, Centre tells Madras High Court

The Centre’s submission was made in a PIL petition that asked for passport rules that demanded sex reassignment surgery certificates to be produced, to be declared unconstitutional; the Centre said the procedure followed for change of sex from male/female to transperson would be followed for change of sex from male to female and vice-versa too

Updated - April 30, 2024 03:54 pm IST

Published - April 30, 2024 01:25 pm IST - CHENNAI

Photograph used for representational purposes only

Photograph used for representational purposes only | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Those who want to change their sex from male to female or vice-versa in their passports, need not submit sex reassignment surgery/surgical reconstruction certificates in support of their sworn affidavits declaring their sex, the Centre has informed the Madras High Court.

The First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and Justice J. Sathya Narayana Prasad recorded this submission by the Central government’s senior standing counsel V. Chandrasekharan, and disposed of a public interest litigation petition pending since 2019.

The petitioner, T.D. Sivakumar, had urged the High Court to declare as unconstitutional and ultra vires to Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution, the provisions of the Passport Rules, 1980 which require submission of surgical certificates for change of sex.

In response, Mr. Chandrasekharan placed before the court an updated compendium of instructions/guidelines relating to the issue of passports and said, the latest instructions stated it was only in rare cases that requests were received for change in sex consequent to medical procedures.

In such cases, the applicants were required to file a sworn affidavit and furnish a supporting certificate from the hospital where he/she had undergone the surgery. Since a change in sex would also normally require a change in name, the procedures for change of name should also be followed.

The instructions also stated that passports would be issued only after fresh police verification and that requests for change in sex from male/female to transgender would not require submission of any surgical reconstruction certificate since such a claim related to self identity, would be accepted in good faith.

However, the PIL petitioner’s counsel B. Poongkhulali brought it to the notice of the court that the latest instructions exempt only those who want to declare themselves as transgender from submitting the surgery certificates and not those who want to change their sex from male to female or vice-versa.

She said, people who had undergone sex change surgeries long back could not be now driven to find out the surgeons and hospitals to obtain the certificates from them. Finding force in her submissions, the judges asked the Central Government Standing Counsel to obtain instructions on this issue from the Centre.

The standing counsel reverted stating that the procedure followed for change of sex to transgender would also be followed for change of sex from male to female and vice-versa too. The Bench recorded the statement and closed the PIL petition after observing that the grievance of the petitioner had been redressed.

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