Many Supreme Court decisions have changed the face of Indian politics and society. These landmark Supreme Court decisions are very important segments of the UPSC curriculum. In this series, we explain and dissect important CS judgments about the benefits of IAS aspirants. In this article, you will learn all about the NALSA case (2014). A list of landmark Supreme Court decisions for the UPSC audit can be found in the linked article. The case was heard by a two-judge chamber of the Supreme Court, composed of Judges K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Arjan Kumar Sikri.  Justice Radhakrishnan has served as a permanent advocate for a number of educational and social organisations and sat on the Supreme Court of Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat before being appointed to the Supreme Court.  Justice Sikri began his legal practice in Delhi, specializing in constitutional matters, labour and service matters, and arbitration. Prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court, he appealed to the Delhi High Court and the High Courts of Punjab and Haryana.
 This is a landmark decision as it is the first to legally recognize non-binary gender identities and defend the human rights of transgender people in India. The ruling also ordered the central and state governments to take proactive steps to guarantee the rights of transgender people. The National Legal Services Authority provides free legal services to the weakest and other marginalized segments of society to advocate for their cause. Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and article 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 declare that every born person has the right to live and to be protected by the law, and that no authority has the power to deny this right to a person. The petition demanded a legal declaration of her gender identity as attributed at the time of her birth and that the non-recognition of her gender identity violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The transgender community has insisted that their inability to express themselves in terms of binary gender deprives them of equal protection by law and social welfare. They also prayed for legal protection as a backward community, as well as the right to express their self-identified gender in forms of government. This case was filed by the National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) to legally recognize people who do not fall under the male/female gender binary, including people who identify as “third gender”. The National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was the lead applicant. It was established with the main purpose of providing free legal aid to disadvantaged groups in Indian society.  The other applicants in this case were the Poojya Mata Nasib Kaur Ji Women Welfare Society, a registered company and NGO, and Laxmi Narayan Tripathy, a well-known Hijra activist.
 After discussing the historical context of transgender people in India, the Supreme Court explicitly recognized that gender identity and sexual orientation include transgender people and that “a person`s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to their personality and constitute one of the most fundamental aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom, and no one should be forced to undergo medical procedures. […] as a precondition for the legal recognition of their gender identity.” [para. 20] She then referred to relevant international human rights standards, in particular the Yogyakarta Principles, which state that “persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights”. [para. 22] In 2012, the National Legal Services Authority, an Indian body established to legally represent marginalized segments of society, filed a written petition with the Supreme Court of India. The petition was joined by a non-governmental organization representing the Kinnar transgender community and a person who identified himself as Hijra. The court had to decide whether persons who do not fall within the male/female binary can be legally recognized as “third gender”. It was debated whether disregard for non-binary gender identities constituted a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. She referred to an “expert committee on transgender issues” under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to develop her judgment. In addition, the Court discussed at length the progressive jurisprudence of other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States on the recognition of the fundamental rights of transgender people.
He said it was necessary for India to respect international human rights conventions and non-binding principles, as the country does not have “appropriate laws to protect the rights of members of the transgender community”. National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014) is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India that declared transgender people to be the “third gender”, affirmed that the fundamental rights granted in the Indian Constitution would also apply to them, and gave them the right to identify themselves as male, female or third gender. The Court upheld the right of every person to identify his or her own sex. In addition, he said hijras and eunuchs can legally identify themselves as a “third sex.” Citation: Application for summary (civil) No. 604 of 2013, AIR 2014 SC 1863 This is a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court legally recognizes “third gender”/transgender people for the first time and discusses “gender identity” at length.