New Delhi: Irked over delay in filing of their response, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and state governments to make their stand clear by September 6 on declaring transgenders as citizens under a third gender category and giving them equal protection and rights.
A bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan pulled up the governments for not filing their response on a PIL seeking equal rights for transgenders and said that it would pass order on the plea if they failed to do so by September 6.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by National Legal Services Authority(NALSA), seeking its direction to declare transgenders as person under third gender category and sought reservation for them in educational institutions and job opportunities either as a separate category or as a backward class.
The apex court had last year issued notice to Centre and various state governments but they failed to file response.
NALSA, a statutory body mandated to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society, submitted that transgenders are deprived of their fundamental rights available to the other two sexes - males and females, and are not considered as the third sex.
"The transgenders are deprived of social and cultural participation, are shunned by family and society, have only restricted access to education, health services and public spaces and have restricted rights as citizens such as right to marry, right to contest elections, right to vote, employment and livelihood opportunities and various human rights such as voting, obtaining passport, driving licence, ration card, identity card etc.
"The transgenders are treated as legal non-entity in violation of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 21 of the Constitution," the PIL said.
Elaborating on the plight of transgenders, also called `Hijras`, the petition mentioned the judgement of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which in 2003 had upheld the election of a eunuch, Kamala Jaan, to the post of Katni mayor.
An election tribunal earlier had nullified his/her election on the ground that it was a seat reserved for women and "Kamla Jaan, being a `male` was not entitled to contest the seat."
The PIL said in such a background there was a need for a direction to include "transgender" as a third category of sex in providing various opportunities or facilities, including in application forms for election card, passport, driving licence, identification card, ration card, admission to educational institutions and for provision of medical treatment, hospitalisation, toilet facilities etc.
The plea added that there was a need to recognise the right of transgenders to adopt children and to marry and for grant of legal status to the community so that they get financial support and help for free sex reassignment surgery and other treatments in government hospitals.