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Sumana Pramanik v. The Union of India and Ors. (02.02.2021)

On the 2nd of February 2021, a single judge of the Calcutta High Court, through a writ of mandamus, directed the administrators of the Joint CSIR-UGC NET examination to institute certain affirmative action measures for the transgender candidates. The examination is a means to determine eligibility for Junior Research Fellowships and Lectureships/Assistant Professorships at Indian Universities.

The petitioner succeeded in demonstrating that while the UGC had granted approval for reservation and allied benefits in the CSIR-UGC NET examination which stands at an almost equal footing with the Joint CSIR-UGC NET examination. In this scenario, the failure to provide the same affirmative action measures, such as reservation, age relaxation, and fee concession for the transgender community amounted to discrimination. The mandate to institute affirmative action measures for transgender population had been recognized in the Supreme Court directions in NALSA (direction 3). Direction 3 required the State and Central governments to treat transgender persons as socially and educationally backward citizens and to grant them reservation in educational institutions and public appointments.

In addition, the court also held that the failure to institute the prayed for affirmative action measures amounted to a violation of the right to life. The court noted that the right to life included a right to life with dignity. The court linked the non grant of reservation, fee concession and age relaxation as a violation of the right to life through the violation of dignity.

Accordingly, the court ordered that the above-mentioned affirmative action measures be implemented immediately.