In a landmark ruling, Bombay high court has allowed Anjali Guru Sanjana Jaan, a trans woman, to contest village election polls under the women’s category. Noting that a transgender person has the right to choose their self-perceived gender identity, the high court has recognised her right to contest as a woman candidate

Mumbai, January 7:  The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench has allowed a transgender to contest village panchayat polls in women’s category, saying that such persons have the right to “self-perceived gender identity”.

A single bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge on January 2 allowed a petition filed by Anjali Guru Sanjana Jaan challenging the December 31, 2020 order passed by a returning officer that rejected her nomination for contesting a gram panchayat election in Jalgaon district. 

In the nomination form, the petitioner had chosen female gender and submitted the form to contest from a ward reserved for women’s general category. The form was, however, rejected as the petitioner was a transgender and there was no transgender category in the present village panchayat elections. 

The petitioner’s advocate A P Bhandari informed the court that the petitioner has always chosen female gender for all purposes and will not be switching over to male gender anytime in the future.The court in its order noted that the Union government has introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 and has permitted a transgender person to have a right to self-perceived gender identity.

“In the present case, the petitioner has opted for the female gender as her self perceived gender identity and makes a solemn statement, which is recorded as the statement made to the Court, that henceforth in her lifetime she would not switch over to the male gender,” the Court said.

It, therefore, set aside the order passed on December 31, 2020 by the Returning Officer who had rejected Anjali’s nomination.

“The Returning Officer was handicapped insofar as the knowledge of law was concerned, while deciding the fate of the nomination form of the petitioner. No other contesting candidate has taken any objection against the petitioner. It is the Returning Officer, who was circumspect about the nomination form of the petitioner believing that the petitioner can neither be a male nor a female and the ward has been reserved for women general category,” the High Court said.”Transgender person is permitted to have a right to self perceived gender identity.”Bombay High Court

Anjali was compelled to approach the High Court after her nomination form was rejected by the returning officer on the ground that she had chosen the female gender in the form and applied for contesting elections in the ward reserved for women-general category.

Justice Ghuge was informed that Anjali had opted for the female gender as her self-perceived gender identity.

Admittedly there is no reservation for the transgender category in the present panchayat elections.

Anjali relied upon the Supreme Court judgment in the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India & Ors. and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

Since her application was found to be complete in all respects, the High Court accepted the same thereby allowing Anjali to contest the election from the ward and the category which she opted in her nomination form.