SC agrees to hear transgender’s plea over cabin crew recruitment

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea filed by a transgender who was refused a cabin crew position by national carrier Air India owing to her sexual orientation.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said they would hear after two weeks the petition of Shanavi Ponnusamy, who alleged she was not hired by Air India because she is a transgender and the vacancies in the cabin crew were earmarked only for men or women.

Ponnusamy, who had undergone gender surgery in 2014 to change into a woman, moved the apex court to scrap the airline’s hiring criteria which included a group discussion and a personality screening test for those willing to apply for cabin crew jobs.

Ponnusamy, born in 1989 in Tamil Nadu, graduated in engineering in 2010. She learnt about an advertisement on July 10, 2017 by Air India for the post of a female cabin crew for its Northern Region office in Delhi for an initial period of five years.

She applied in the female category as she had undergone a successful sexual reassignment surgery in Bangkok, she said in the plea, adding that she had no other option than to apply as a woman since there was no transgender column in the form given by Air India.

The petitioner said she got a call letter, appeared for group discussion and Personal Assessment tests and undertook four attempts, “but unfortunately she has not been short-listed for the post in question even though she fared well in the tests conducted”.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 prohibits discrimination. It is clear that no person shall discriminate against a transgender person in relation to employment or occupation, the petition stated.

The petition also cited the apex verdict of 2014 that gave certain directions for protection of the rights of transgenders by including a third category in documents.

It said: “The right to choose one’s gender identity is an essential part to lead a life with dignity, which again falls under the ambit of Article 21. Determining the right to personal freedom and self-determination, the court observed that the gender to which a person belongs is to be determined by the person concerned.”