Ms. X vs. State of Karnataka & Anr.

December 22, 2017
Gender & Sexuality

The Petitioner in the instant case has challenged Section 15 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 and Rule 11 of the Karnaraka Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1999, as they only allow alteration of the Birth Certificate in instances of error, and not in cases of voluntary change in name or gender.

The Petitioner underwent a male-to-female Sex-Reassignment operation, and the Government of India recognised the same and issued an Aadhar Card, Passport, Permanent Account Number (PAN) Card, and Driver’s License, bearing the Petitioner’s new name and gender. However, upon applying for a new Birth Certificate, the Petitioner’s request was rejected.

In light of these facts, she has also instituted a claim against the Registrar of Birth and Death Certificate, as the inconsistency in documentation has caused her grave inconvenience and has impeded her pursual of marital relations with a Dutch national in the Netherlands, for which she requires a Birth Certificate bearing her current name and gender.

Arguing for the Petitioner, Advocate Jayna Kothari has relied upon the landmark judgment of NALSA v Union of India, where the Supreme Court recognised the right of persons to self-identify their gender as a form of expression and thus a part of Article 19(1)(a). The non recognition of a person’s gender erodes their right to have a dignified life as guaranteed by Article 21, and the rejection of alteration of the Birth Certificate forces the Petitioner to disclose her previous identity, infringing upon her right to privacy, which has also been held as a part of Article 21, in Justice Puttaswamy v Union of India. The Court further recognised the discrimination faced by transgender persons in society, and the rejection in question perpetuates this discrimination, violating Article 14.

The Law Commission of Karnataka, in its 24th Report published on 20th July 2013, has also recommended that Section 15 should be amended to allow for a change in name, because forcing an individual to indentify with a pre-assigned name is a curtailment of their right to life. The same reasoning can thus also be extended to a change in gender identity as well.

The Petitioner has thus prayed for the provisions in question to be read down so as to include voluntary changes by a person in their name and gender, and for a new Birth Certificate to be issued to her, reflecting the changes.

The case was admitted by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka on 15.12.2017, and is pending.