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New Delhi:

 
The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a plea that challenges the constitutional validity of a 2019 law on protection of the right of transgenders for allegedly restricting the right to self-identification.

The plea filed by transgender rights activist Swait Bidhan Baruah said that the Act mandated a transgender to undergo certification of gender identification by a District Magistrate and additionally may also go through gender affirming surgery by a medical officer.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant issued notice to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

“The impugned Act is a regressive piece of legislation, which is more likely to harm the interests of the transgender community in India. The impugned legislation has several provisions which suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and vagueness,” the plea said.

The plea sought the declaration of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, as unconstitutional, as it allegedly restricts the right of such persons to self-identify their gender through certification from the state.

“For that, the process of certification is not a suitable method of giving effect to the right to self-identification. The means adopted in fact is completely contrary to the stated aim of giving effect to the right to self-identification,” said the petition.

The plea also contended that this Act interferes with the right to privacy of a transgender.

“The Act, however, sets the clock back and negates even the protections secured to transpersons by the verdict in the NALSA case. The Act permits the imposition of as little as six months imprisonment for offences such as endangering the life of a transgender or sexual abuse of a transgender, which is completely arbitrary and irrational.”

The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on transgenders’ rights on August 5, 2019, and the Rajya Sabha in November 2019.

The issue of protection of the rights of transgenders had also cropped up when the apex court was hearing the matter relating to the National Register of Citizens in Assam.

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