National Legal Services Authority v Union of India and Others

Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India, which declared transgender people to be a 'third gender', affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people, and gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third-gender. This judgement is a major step towards gender equality in India.Moreover, the court also held that because transgender people were treated as socially and economically backward classes, they will be granted reservations in admissions to educational institutions and jobs.

Citation :
WP (Civil) No 400 of 2012



National Legal Services Authority … Petitioner
Union of India and others … Respondents



K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

1. Seldom, our society realizes or cares to realize the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex. Our society often ridicules and abuses the Transgender community and in public places like railway stations, bus stands, schools, workplaces, malls, theatres, hospitals, they are sidelined and treated as untouchables, forgetting the fact that the moral failure lies in the society’s unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and expressions, a mindset which we have to change.

2. We are, in this case, concerned with the grievances of the members of Transgender Community (for short ‘TG community’) who seek a legal declaration of their gender identity than the one assigned to them, male or female, at the time of birth and their prayer is that non-recognition of their gender identity violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Hijras/Eunuchs, who also fall in that group, claim legal status as a third gender with all legal and constitutional protection.

3. The National Legal Services Authority, constituted under the Legal Services Authority Act, 1997, to provide free legal services to the weaker and other marginalized sections of the society, has come forward to advocate their cause, by filing Writ Petition No. 400 of 2012. Poojaya Mata Nasib Kaur Ji Women Welfare Society, a registered association, has also preferred Writ Petition No. 604 of 2013, seeking similar reliefs in respect of Kinnar community, a TG community.

4. Laxmi Narayan Tripathy, claimed to be a Hijra, has also got impleaded so as to effectively put across the cause of the members of the transgender community and Tripathy’s life experiences also for recognition of their identity as a third gender, over and above male and female. Tripathy says that nonrecognition of the identity of Hijras, a TG community, as a third gender, denies them the right of equality before the law and equal protection of law guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution and violates the rights guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

5. Shri Raju Ramachandran, learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner – the National Legal Services Authority, highlighted the traumatic experiences faced by the members of the TG community and submitted that every person of that community has a legal right to decide their sex orientation and to espouse and determine their identity. Learned senior counsel has submitted that since the TGs are neither treated as male or female, nor given the status of a third gender, they are being deprived of many of the rights and privileges which other persons enjoy as citizens of this country. TGs are deprived of social and cultural participation and hence restricted access to education, health care and public places which deprives them of the Constitutional guarantee of equality before law and equal protection of laws. Further, it was also pointed out that the community also faces discrimination to contest election, right to vote, employment, to get licences etc. and, in effect, treated as an outcast and untouchable. Learned senior counsel also submitted that the State cannot discriminate them on the ground of gender, violating Articles 14 to 16 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

6. Shri Anand Grover, learned senior counsel appearing for the Intervener, traced the historical background of the third gender identity in India and the position accorded to them in the Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic literatures, and the prominent role played by them in the royal courts of the Islamic world etc. Reference was also made to the repealed Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 and explained the inhuman manner by which they were treated at the time of the British Colonial rule. Learned senior counsel also submitted that various International Forums and U.N. Bodies have recognized their gender identity and referred to the Yogyakarta Principles and pointed out that those principles have been recognized by various countries around the world.

Reference was also made to few legislations giving recognition to the trans-sexual persons in other countries. Learned senior counsel also submitted that non-recognition of gender identity of the transgender community violates the fundamental rights guaranteed to them, who are citizens of this country.

To read the full judgement, find the enclosed attachment


on 29 May 2019
Published in Constitutional Law
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