Trans Woman Vs Air India: SC Asks Centre To Enforce Transgender Rights
In 2012, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment recognised transgenders and eunuchs as the third gender.
Supreme Court on Thursday said the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was a watershed evolution in transgender rights but the Centre must take the lead to adopt suitable measures in implementing the law in letter and spirit.
The top court's views came on a 2017 plea filed by Shanavi Ponnusamy who alleged that she was denied a job as a cabin crew with the then national carrier Air India because she was transgender. Five years later after Ponnusamy filed her plea, the Supreme Court said that every establishment was required to adhere to the provisions of the act.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court clarified that while it was not looking for reservations, "reasonable accommodations" should be made. The bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud directed the Centre to liaise with the National Council and other relevant stakeholders to come up with an enabling framework that could be made that would help the third sex with employment opportunities.
Air India is now private, Article 32 does not apply
In 2017, Shanavi Ponnusamy—who was born male at birth and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2014—responded to an advertisement and applied for a job as a cabin crew with Air India. Since the carrier did not have the option for the third sex, Ponnusamy applied as a female.
Over the years, she has been denied a job four times. According to Ponnusamy, she didn't get the job because she was transgender while R. Prabhakaran, her advocate said the company was discriminating against her because of her gender.
In August 2018 affidavit, the then-national carrier defended its policies and called the petition frivolous. "As a result of the frivolous petition, (Air India) has suffered an immense loss to its goodwill and reputation, for which it reserves the right to sue the petitioner for damages," Air India affidavit said.
However, four years later, in an additional affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, Air India said that since it was now a private company, they were no longer amenable to the writ jurisdiction of this court under Article 32 as it ceased being a "state" as defined in Article 12 of the Constitution.
Earlier this year in January, the Tatas acquired Air India under the disinvestment policy.
In court, senior advocate KV Vishwanathan representing the now-private carrier asserted that Ponnusamy was not selected because she did not meet the eligibility criteria.
Speaking with BOOM, Ponnusamy said still wants to fly as a member of a cabin crew. When asked if she wanted to work with Air India or any other airline she said the problem lay with the government. "All airlines (which are private) follow government rules. if the government will not hire (transpeople), then how can the airlines? The government must take the lead in this," she said.
The matter has now been posted for the first week of December to give the Centre time to come up with a framework.
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