Bombay HC Asserts Transgender People's Right to Self-Identify Their Gender

Overturning the decision of the returning officer, the court allowed a transgender person to contest gram panchayat polls in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district as a woman candidate.

New Delhi: The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court observed that a transgender person has the right to their self-perceived gender identity in addition to the right to be recognised, interpreting the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

The bench headed by Justice Ravindra Ghuge on Tuesday was hearing a petition filed by Anjali Guru Sanjana Jaan, a transgender woman, who challenged the returning officer’s decision to reject her nomination for the upcoming gram panchayat polls in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district.

The official concerned had said that Jaan cannot be categorised as a woman, as she had identified herself in the nomination papers. The particular ward is reserved for women’s general category candidates.

While issuing directions to the authorities concerned to allow Jaan to contest polls, the court said that as the petitioner identified herself as female and her statement would be recorded before the court, it advised the petitioner not to switch to male identity driven by “opportunism”.

Also read: Patna HC Rebukes Bihar Govt For Issuing Recruitment Forms Without 3rd Gender Column

It further added that the petitioner should continue to opt for the female gender for the lifetime, except in a situation where reservation is made available for transgender people.

The petitioner said that Section 4(2) of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and the Supreme Court judgment in the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India and others, AIR 2014 allow a transgender person a self-perceived gender identity. 

The bench while passing its order said that the returning officer was ignorant of the law and noted that other candidates in the fray had no objection to Jaan’s nomination and questioned the action taken by the official. The court finally set aside the order issued by the officer, allowing Jaan to contest under her chosen gender category, female.