S.Sushma v. DGP, Tamil Nadu and Ors WP No. 7281/2021 (October 2021 Hearing)

The October Order

This blogpost concerns the hearing on 4th October, 2021 in the S.Sushma case.

Amendment of Police Misconduct Rules

1. In the August order, the court had directed that police harassment of queer persons and activists or NGOs working with them should be classed as a punishable misconduct. In this hearing, the DGP submitted that accordingly, he had recommended to the government, the modification of the misconduct rules. The exact wording of the recommendation is not available in the order. Therefore, it is difficult to know whether the harassment will in fact be classed as misconduct, and whether any punishment will be provided for the same.

Progress on Police Sensitisation and Training Programmes

2. The DGP averred that circulars had been issued that sensitisation and training programmes for the police with respect to the queer community must be conducted in all districts and cities of Tamil Nadu, with the help of the NGOs and CBOs identified by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE). Such trainings had commenced in the Tirupur and Coimbatur districts. This was a direction that the court had given as early as June 21, in the June order. In the August order, there had been no compliance with it, at least none was reported. However, some progress seems to have been made by October. However, in the August order, the court had asked that the queer community members and NGOs and activists working on queer rights be involved in these training programmes. This was not happening, and the court once again recommended that the community and activists be involved in the training programmes provided to the police.

Improvements to Media Reporting

In the August order, the court had urged the media to write sensitively and accurately about queer matters. It had not passed any formal orders for press compliance. However, in this hearing, the court received an update that one renowned newspaper had already organised a media conference where it was decided that the media must work to build a queer friendly future, and that this consortium was in the process of developing a report containing words and expressions to be used for queer reporting. Further, a style guide was being developed by the New India Express to lend uniformity to reporting on queer issues.

List of NGOs and CBOs Working with the Queer Community

In the June order, direction B, the court had asked the MSJE to put up a list of NGOs and CBOs with expertise on queer issues. Until now, there had been no progress reported on it, although this list was supposed to have been up on their website by early August, 2021. In this hearing though, the MSJE provided a progress report. As per the MSJE, they were already in the process of identifying a list of NGOs and CBOs working with the transgender community. This list was to be published on their website shortly.

However, their stand was that only transgender persons came under their charge. They averred that the other members of the queer community would come under the charge of the Home Ministry. The MSJE accordingly requested that the Home Ministry be impleaded in the case so that they may obtain the appropriate list of NGOs and CBOs for other queer community members from them.

Shelter Homes for the Queer Community

In the June Order, in direction F, the court had directed that garima greh, which are shelter homes for transgender persons, be extended to other members of the queer community. The MSJE detailed the help available through these shelter homes: basic medical and other services and skill development courses. They also stated their plans to open more shelter homes for the transgender community through their SMILE project. However, these homes are available to the transgender community only. The court had directed that these homes be extended to other members of the queer community as well. The MSJE did not state that it had been done or that there were plans to do this.

The court had also directed that aaganwadis and other shelter homes be extended to the queer community. However, no update was provided on whether this was happening/planned.

Training Programme Provided by the MSJE wrt Transgender Community

The MSJE stated that they have provided various training programmes to different stakeholders with respect to the transgender community, including to police professionals, juvenile justice boards, child development committees, district magistrates and collectors, etc. Presently, they were conducting an online programme for district magistrates on issuing transgender certificate. However, the June order had required the MSJE to provide training programmes for the judiciary and peer support for the parents of the members of the queer community. No updates were provided on these two stakeholders. However, the State Judicial Academy was asked to provide a report on their plans for judicial training within Tamil Nadu.

Amendment of the Medical Curriculum and Prohibition of Conversion Therapies

The court had in the August order bemoaned the classification of queerness as a disease in the undergraduate medical curriculum. It had asked for a report from the Indian Medical Commission on how it plans to remove this wrong information from the syllabus. No report was filed yet, but the commission asked for some more time to make a submission. Further, no updates were provided regarding the direction to prohibit conversion therapies, which had been made as early as June 2021.

Legal Awareness Programmes

Once again, the court ended with the call to the State Legal Services to organise frequent legal literacy programmes, as they could not be a one-time affair. It is unclear what these literacy programmes were: were they programmes for the queer community, or about the queer community? However, the June Order had also directed that free legal aid should be provided to the queer community and their issues should be included in the Lok Adalat. No update was provided on these grounds.

The next hearing was scheduled for the 6th of December, 2021.

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