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Transgender community 'shocked' at timing, manner of seeking feedback on draft rules

By Our Representative
Responding to the “announcement” by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) seeking public feedback for the draft rules of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, more than 150 members of the transgender community in a letter to the minister of social justice and empowerment have strongly protested against a very limited time period of 12 days for sending suggestions, that too during lockdown.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 received presidential assent on January 10, 2020. The draft rules were placed on the MoSJE website on April 18, and the last date for getting suggestions ends on April 30. 
Stating that they are “shocked” to note the timing and manner of ‘seeking feedback’, the signatories say, under the “mandatory lockdown regime” millions of working people, “including the entire transgender community has been facing a severe crisis of survival, food insecurity, lack of access to healthcare and livelihood.”
Asserting that they have not been offered any “supportive package” either, the letter says, they have “serious reservations regarding the non-consultative manner in which the Act was passed as well as many of the deeply problematic provisions in the Act, which fundamentally go against the grain of National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) judgment as well as our constitutional rights as equal citizens.”
The letter says, the government should be “very much aware that the constitutional vires of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019” which is “impugned” before the Supreme Court, in multiple petitions. “Since the matter is sub judice, it would be in the fitness of things to await the verdict of the Court, before proceeding with any rule-making process”, it adds.
All details pertaining to the proposed rules must be placed in public domain for at least 30 days and communicated to public at large
Further, the letter says, the announcement for feedback “is inconsistent with the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP), 2014 of the Government of India, which must invariably be followed by all Ministries and Departments in formulating principal and sub-ordinate legislation (rule-making).”
According to this policy, “All details pertaining to the proposed Bill/ Rules must be placed in public domain for a period of at least 30 days and communicated to public at large through print, electronic, audio and visual means. The policy also envisages a process for consultation with the specific communities/ groups affected by such laws/ rules.”
Also protesting against the rules having been placed “only on the website and in English, while a majority of the community neither has access to web-based portals or the English language”, the letter says, “An Act which claims to be ‘inclusive’ cannot adopt a rule-making process so exclusionary.”
Demanding that the MoSJE should not to proceed with the rule-making process till the matter of the Act’s constitutionality is cleared by the Supreme Court, the letter says, the government should not go ahead it them till “the lockdown is fully lifted and the situation of transgender people returns to at least a degree of ‘pre-lockdown normalcy’.”

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