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Madras High Court Pulls Up Union Ministry Of Social Justice & Empowerment Over Delay In Enlisting NGOs Working For LGBTQIA+ Community

Sebin James
19 Feb 2022 6:45 AM GMT
Madras High Court Pulls Up Union Ministry Of Social Justice & Empowerment Over Delay In Enlisting NGOs Working For LGBTQIA+ Community
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In a plea that currently considers the extent of measures that can be adopted for the fair treatment of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ Community, Madras High Court has pulled up the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for its lackadaisical attitude in enlisting the NGOs working for the said community.The single-judge bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that the...

In a plea that currently considers the extent of measures that can be adopted for the fair treatment of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ Community, Madras High Court has pulled up the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for its lackadaisical attitude in enlisting the NGOs working for the said community.

The single-judge bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that the concerned Ministry has not taken the issue as a 'priority'. 

The Senior Panel Counsel had initially sought time to get clarity from the Ministry on extending the scope of the 'Garima Greh' Scheme to all members of the LGBTQIA+ Community and not transgenders alone. He informed the court that he is in constant touch with the respondent ministry as well as the Home Ministry and assured that he will update the court by the next date of hearing.

However, when it came to the matter of NGOs working for the welfare of the LGBTQIA+ Community, the court took serious note of the Ministry's failure to enlist the NGOs and upload the list on their website as per the court directions.

" The status report filed by the 10th Respondent( Ministry) is bereft of details. The Annexure to the report reflects that only nine NGOs are there in the entire country. This list is not the correct indication of NGOs working in India for the upliftment of persons belonging to the LGBTQIA+ Community. This court has been repeatedly requesting the 10th Respondent to undertake the process. However, till date, there is no progress. In view of the above, as a last chance, one more opportunity is given to the respondent to comply with the court direction. The e-mail correspondence made by the Senior Panel Counsel on.... perfectly addresses the issues and if the 10th respondent had taken this communication seriously, there would have been some progress", the court noted in the order.

 "It is made clear that if the 10th Respondent does not complete the process of enlisting NGOs with all details and uploading it on their website within the next date of hearing, the Under Secretary to the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, shall be present before the court", the bench warned the Ministry.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh orally remarked that he has been pushing the matter since recognition of NGOs is necessary to prevent the potential abuse inflicted upon LGBTQIA+ Community. 

The Bench also pointed out that there will be roughly at least 8 NGOs working for the welfare of the community in Tamil Nadu itself.

"If NGOs are working for the welfare, it is important that they are enlisted and recognised. If not, there is a possibility of NGOs abusing the LGBTQIA+ Community due to unaccountability. The probability of abuse is high, unfortunately, that's why I am pushing for this. We consider the persons belonging to the community as weak and our perverted minds do the rest of the work... Today is the third hearing and they are not giving me the true list. Next time, I will summon them. For me, ultimately, it is the institution and the rule of law that should prevail", Justice N.Anand Venkatesh orally observed.

The court also remarked that the government is ill-equipped to protect the LGBTQIA+ Community, and for that, the assistance of recognised NGOs is necessary.

"Government servants have their own prejudices. As a High Court judge, I have my own prejudices, will it not be the same for them as well?", the judge asked the Senior Panel Counsel.

When the issue regarding the preparation of transgender policy was taken up today, Additional Advocate Genera; apprised the court that a draft has been prepared and circulated to all stakeholders. He also added that suggestions have been invited on the said draft and sought some more time to get the policy finalised by state planning commission.

Before taking note of the counsel's submissions in the order, Justice N.Anand Venkatesh made another remark that some recognition must be given when it comes to reservations and providing opportunities to the people of the community who are discriminated against.

" For gays and lesbians, we can say that they are able to avail education and jobs until when it comes to their relationships and the rights flowing from it. Then, they are shunned by society. However, when it comes to transman and transwoman, this discrimination starts right from the beginning. They don't have access to education and there is no love and affection from the family. Most of them are forced to take up prostitution work... So you can't have a perfect policy formulated. It can be improved upon later", the court told the AAG.

While considering other aspects, the court also noted its appreciation for the Ministry of Home Affairs that has given a direction for the fair treatment of transgender prisoners to all States/UTs and Director Generals(Prisons) in line with the orders given by the court.

Other Developments

Today, the court also took note of the submission made by TN State Legal Services Authority that a program has been organised for 'training the trainers', who will, in turn, aid the community members. The counsel for the Legal Services Authority also submitted that the training will be given to all empanelled advocates in the 32 Districts of the State.

Earlier today, Madras High Court also termed the recent amendment to TN Subordinate Police Officers' Conduct Rules as a 'milestone' and directed all forms of Press/ Media to follow the finalised glossary submitted by Government today while referring to persons belonging to LGBTQIA+ community.

The bench of Justice N.Anand Venkatesh also instructed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to take disciplinary action against medical practitioners who indulge in conversion therapy. NMC has also been directed to implement the revised CBME Curriculum by incorporating and publishing the modified competencies recommended by the expert committee in textbooks.

These developments come in a protection plea filed by a Lesbian couple facing police harassment, and pursuant to a slew of guidelines issued by the High Court in June 2021 to ensure the protection of LGBTQIA+ persons in consensual relationships.

The matter has been posted for 8th April, 2022, for filing further reports and for ensuring compliance.

Case Title: Mrs S. Sushma & Ors. v. The Director-General of Police & Ors.

Case No: WP /7284/2021 (Gen.Crim.)

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 68

Click Here To Read/ Download Order


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