The Patna High Court has issued notice to the Government of Bihar on a petition regarding financial assistance to be provided to the transgender community in view of their deplorable condition in the wake of national lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench of the Patna High Court comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar considered the petition and took into account the "alleged pitiable state of affairs of the transgender in the State of Bihar. Allegedly, the community is ostracized, more so in times of the current outbreak of Pandemic Corona Virus".
Noting the "importance and significance of the matter", the Union of India through the Secretaries of Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment have been impleaded.
It was further observed by the Court that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was enacted to provide for protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare.
The Act prohibits discrimination of transgenders and places the onus on the State to provide for their welfare.
"As per the Act, no person or establishment shall discriminate against a transgender in the matter of education, employment, occupation, health, enjoyment of goods, accommodation, services, facilities etc. In fact, by virtue of the provisions contained in Chapter III thereof, identity of the transgender persons stands recognized with a right to have proper record maintained by the authorities, which in the instant case, as per definition (Section 2) would be the State, is required to take certain welfare measures".
On that basis, the Bench not only issued notice and directed the State to file a response dealing with all averments in the petition, but also directed them to "consider providing a Facilitation Centre-a one Point Centre dealing with all problems- for the members of the community at the grass root level, which can be similar to the Anganwadi system prevalent in the State of Bihar".
The petition, filed by Advocate-on-Record Akash Keshav and Advocate Shashwat Srivastava, came on the heels of a representation letter sent by the Petitioner to the Chief Secretary via email, seeking for immediate financial assistance for trans persons. However, due to lack of response to the same, the Petitioner was compelled to file the instant petition.
The plea seeks for the following directions to be given to the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar, and Additional Chief Secretary, Social Welfare Department, Govt. of Bihar as well as the Principal Secretary, Food and Consumer Protection Department, Govt. of Bihar:
1. To provide an immediate 25 kg ration support and cash assistance of Rs. 5000/- per month for at least a period of 6 months to the transgender community in the State of Bihar.
2. To provide an additional cash assistance of Rs. 2000/- to the people of the transgender community for payment of rent in their rented accommodation for at least six months.
3. To provide ration, food and nutrition free of charge from ration shops for at least six months by implementing provisions of free ration by State Government and Central Government Schemes even without holding a ration card and to initiate the process for issuance of ration card to all the people of transgender community and to include all, even if they are living on rented accommodation.
4. To establish a facilitation centre at sub-divisional or block level, similar to the Anganwadi system, to be operated by trans persons to provide nutritional and other support to the people of the transgender community.
5. To devise a monthly pension scheme with an appropriate amount which should not be less than Rs. 3500/- per month to all the persons of the transgender community.
6. To devise a speedy grievance redressal system to dispose of application made, if any, for grievance redressal within a time bound manner not more than of 20 days after receiving of such application.
The basis of filing the petition was that various vulnerable groups in the State of Bihar had been negatively impacted due to the national lockdown instituted to contain the virus; the transgender community being one of the extremely vulnerable groups due to familial and social ostracization faced by them.
Trans persons have not only been deprived of their daily earners, but are also unable to attain ration facility through PDS due to the government not issuing ration cards for them. Additionally, no monthly pension scheme or employment scheme has been launched by the Government of Bihar for the trans community.
"That people from the transgender community are the ones most affected socially and financially and most neglected at crucial changes in contemporary circumstances. They are the ones who are facing the utmost financial hardships. While the whole world combats one on one against COVID-19, once again they lay in ghettos and are ignored".
The petition further invokes the directions provided by the Jharkhand High Court to the State of Jharkhand on 17.04.2020 in the case of Amarjeet Singh v. Chief Secretary of Jharkhand, State of Jharkhand, to provide meal and other facilities to transgenders. It also refers to a 09.04.2020 Order of the Karnataka High Court in the case of Md. Arif Jameel v. Union of India, which has directed the State to immediately dispose of applications made by transgender persons for grant of social security benefits under the Mythri Scheme.
The matter is now listed on 11th May, 2020 before the Patna High Court.
Advocates appearing for Petitioner:
1. Akash Keshav, AOR
Click Here To Download Order