Calcutta HC: Reservation to Transgender Candidates in Joint CSIR NET a Fundamental Right
2nd February 2021, the Calcutta High Court, in an order, directed that benefits of reservation, age relaxation and fee concession be forthwith provided to transgender persons in the Joint CSIR NET Examinations.
The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya held:
“The right to life, it has been held time and again by various judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts, includes the right to live with dignity. As such, non-grant of such reservation, age relaxation and fee concession to transgender persons in the Joint CSIR-UGC NET Examinations is unacceptable and patently violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research National Eligibility Test — CSIR NET Exam — is conducted twice a year in June and December by the National Testing Agency (NTA) — an autonomous organization established by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
The CSIR NET Exam is held for five subjects of science including; Chemical Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science and Mathematical Science. Candidates aspiring for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) or aiming at becoming lecturers in Indian universities and colleges enroll and appear for the exam. Whereas, the UGC NET Exam is conducted for all subjects other than science.
On 3rd November 2020, a writ petition was filed in the Calcutta High Court by Sumana Pramanik who holds a postgraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Kalyani, West Bengal and is the first transgender person in the State to be appointed at the Lok Adalat. Through the writ, the petitioner sought fee concession, in the CSIR NET Exam, owing to her poor financial conditions augmented especially during the COVID-19 pandemic times.
The petitioner relied on a landmark Supreme Court judgement, National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India and others dated 15th April 2014, which affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India apply to the transgender community and also grants them the right of self-identification of their gender. The court also directed the Central and State governments treat members of the transgender community as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and provide reservations for their benefit in admissions to educational institutions and for government jobs.
In the National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India and others, the Court had held:
“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity includes any discrimination, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has the effect of nullifying or transposing equality by the law or the equal protection of laws guaranteed under our Constitution, and hence we are inclined to give various directions to safeguard the constitutional rights of the members of the TG community.”
Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya observed that such benefits have been provided in the UGC NET Examinations, “which stands on more or less equal footing. He added:
“It is palpably clear that there is no rhyme or reason for there being no reservation, age relaxation and fee concession for the transgender community in the Joint CSIR-UGC NET Examination.”
In conclusion, the Calcutta High Court allowed the Mandamus writ petition and directed the rightful authority:
“to immediately provide for reservation, age relaxation and fee concession for the category of transgenders, along with the other reserved categories, for the Joint CSIR-UGC NET Examinations at all levels.”
14. Equality before Law
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
Ankitha Subramanya | Research Intern | EduLegaL