The apex court issued a notice to Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India on Monday, on the basis of a plea filed by a transgender Shanavi Ponnuswamy against the airline, said a report by the Live Law. The petition was filed by Shanavi seeking a direction to the national carrier to appoint her as a cabin crew.
She claimed in her PIL that the airline refused to consider her for the job because of her gender. The SC sought a response from the ministry with a two-week time period asking why is there no mention of the third gender in the Air India recruitment application.
Filing a petition
Ponnuswamy is an engineering graduate who has earlier worked with Sutherland and Air India Customer Support. She underwent a sex change operation and became a female. In her petition, she has referred to the NALSA judgement of April 2014 to strengthen the case.
Petitioner had to fill in and apply as a female but her application was rejected. She also said that she was forced to drag the matter to the SC as her repeated representations in examinations and doing well in the tests and representations to the aviation authorities fell on deaf ears. She also took the matter to the PM, but even her pleas fell on deaf ears.
The SC had earlier in 2014 directed the Centre and the State government to grant recognition of the gender identity, whether it may be male, female or third gender. This gave the transgenders, the right of self-identification of their genders.
Shanavi plead the apex court to issue a writ or a direction in the nature of a mandamus directing the concerned respondents to the consider the application of the petitioner for the post of a cabin crew in Air India.
The petition read the following:
“The petitioner has taken four attempts so far but unfortunately she hasn’t been short-listed for the post in question even though faring well in the tests conducted. The petitioner learned reliably that she has not been able to make the cut on account of the fact that she is a transgender and the vacancies in the cabin crew were earmarked only for women.
The petitioner has been rejected even though she has the required qualification and experience. The petitioner went to the office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation to discuss the issue of selection in the Air India CMD. It is unfortunate that the public servants who are in such important posts, do not think it to be there to meet the general public for the redressal of their grievances”.
What is the NALSA judgement
The widely hailed judgement, National Legal Services v. The Union of India, is colloquially called the NALSA judgement was passed by the Supreme Court in India that recognised the rights of transgender people and said that they should enjoy all the fundamental rights that are enumerated in the Indian constitution. The judgement gave broad directives to the Central and the state governments on affirmative action, public health, social welfare and other services to be made available for transgender people.
The NALSA judgement petition said: “SC of India in its pioneering judgements in the division of benches of Justices K.S Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India and Ors recognised the third gender along with the male and the female. By recognising diverse gender identities, the court has busted the concept of the “man” and the “woman” which is generally accepted by the society. The recognition of the transgenders as the third gender is not a social or a medical issue but a human rights issue, said justice K.S Radhakrishnan to the apex court while handing down the ruling.
The right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law is an essential part of living life with dignity. It is guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Determining the right to personal freedom and self-determination, the Court observed that the gender to which a person belongs is to be determined by the concerned person himself. Further, they cannot be discriminated against on the ground of gender as it is violative of articles 14, 15, 16 and 21.”
The Logical Indian Take
The Logical Indian community condemns the discriminatory actions of Air India meted out against Shanavi. This incident is an example of how in spite of the NALSA judgement being passed over two years ago, it is not is effectively being implemented in the society and the transgender community continues to face the brunt of discriminatory behaviour.
This is not an isolated incident. In February 2015, Telangana Hijra Samiti had reported over 40 attacks on the transgender people within a span of six months. A report by the Al-Jazeera revealed that a transgender person dies after an accident as the doctors could not decide which ward to use for his treatment, the male or female ward.
In spite of being qualified in the tests over a couple of times, Shanavi was rejected by the Air India authorities. Such discriminatory actions against the transgenders are fundamentally wrong in nature. They should be entitled to equal opportunities. The Logical Indian urges the concerned authority to incorporate the directions of the SC so as to ensure the transgender community does not face any form of discrimination in future.