A New Delhi judge has overturned a lower court’s conviction of a transgender beggar, chastising the lower court for not properly accounting for the hardship the appellant faces due to widespread discrimination against transgender and gender variant citizens.
The beggar, known only as Rani, was sentenced to two years in a detention home under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act by a special metropolitan magistrate after being found begging at a red light at Moor Chand flyover in November 2010. Rani appealed the ruling.
The district court of appeals in a decision issued June 6 overturned the lower court’s penalty and had a stern rebuke for the court’s lack of judgement.
Setting aside the order of a special metropolitan magistrate sending appellant transgender Rani to the beggars’ home for two years, district and additional session Judge AK Chawla said: “The appeal is accepted and the order of detention is set aside.” “It is ordered that the appellant be released after due admonition on a personal bond of Rs 1,000. Appeal stands disposed of accordingly,” the court said in its June 6 order. The court said that the transgender had a right to lead a life of dignity and earn a livelihood.
The district court noted that while passing the order, the magistrate should have had regard to the age and character of the beggar, the circumstances and conditions in which the person was living and the report made by the probation officer.
It noted the report of the probation officer in the case was silent on the [appellants] character, living conditions or antecedents like family background and circumstances, which forced Rani to beg.
Criticising the special metropolitan magistrate”s order of conviction, the court said, “It is totally silent on the circumstances in which the appellant was living and now is there any material on record about his antecedents.”
Rani was released with a warning on a personal bond of Rs 1,000.
India stands among only a handful of countries where eunuchs still exist. As a group they are often ostracized by the general population and usually make a living through combinations of begging or sex work. Compounding their woes, they may lack the documentation that would give them citizenship entitlement rights.
India’s Hijras, a culturally long established third gender, have recently been given government recognition in various, if limited, forms.
However gender variant citizens, even those as marinated in India’s history as Hijras are, still face marginalization to the point of extreme poverty and vulnerability. While this may be something that is slowly changing, the change is glacial.
As such, the Court’s recognition of Ranni’s plight, while not perfect, is certainly noteworthy.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Tom Spender.