The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the navy to consider giving a clerical post to a sailor who was sacked for undergoing a gender reassignment surgery.
Calling for a "change in mindset", a division bench of Justice GS Sistani and Justice V Kameswar Rao said this was probably the only case of its kind in the armed forces and pointed out that the person was suffering from 'gender identity crisis'.
Sabi Giri, a transgender woman, was discharged from service earlier this month by the navy as part of its policy to not employ female sailors.
The bench agreed with the navy's decision to not allow Sabi Giri to continue as a sailor but called for a lenient view due to the nature of the issue.
"This is an out of the box situation. This may have never happened in the navy or other armed forces," the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the government and navy, said: "We are not judgmental as regard to transgenders and we respect their choice but Sabi was discharged from service as a part of policy decision of the navy. As of today, navy is not ready to accept female sailors."
Sabi, who had told TNM earlier as well that she would settle for another post in the navy, says that that she has full faith in the Constitution. "I am sure that I will get justice from the High Court," she tells TNM.
However, Sabi asserts that she should be given an equivalent position in terms of rank and pay. "I donâ€™t want a big position but neither do I want a demotion. If they are transferring me to another post, it should be similar to the previous one," she asserts.
Posting the matter for November 23, the court asked the government and the navy to seek instructions and inform it about their decision.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Sabi, contended that she was fully and functionally fit to perform her duties.
The plea also challenged Section 9 of The Navy Act that allows the enrolment of only male sailors and limited entry of women sailors in specific departments, but has no provision for enrolment of transgender sailors.
Sabi joined the Indian Navy when she was only 18. Assigned the male gender at birth, Sabi's identification as a woman grew stronger when she was around 20.
Despite having told mental health professionals and her peers about how she felt, Sabi did not receive support or help.
Finally, around May last year, she consulted a private psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder. Soon after that, Sabi began hormone replacement therapy. And in October, Sabi took a 22-day leave from work and went to Delhi to undergo the surgery which would make her look the way she felt.
However, right before she was to return to work, Sabi contacted Urinary Tract Infection. But choosing not to extend her leave, she came back to Eksila and consulted the navy doctors. While her UTI was cured in a month, the news of her gender affirmation surgery became public knowledge.
What followed was months of mistreatment, which included six months of being kept in isolation in a male psychiatric ward. But when the doctors did not find Sabi mentally unstable, they had to release her. Sabi believes this was part of the navy's attempt to find reasons to relieve her from service.
In April this year, Sabi was released from the psychiatry ward. However, things quickly went downhill because women cannot serve in the armed forces as soldiers, which was the rank Sabi held.
"They selected me because of my potential and my talent right? If I still have the courage to pull the trigger to shoot an enemy, if I still have the skill to do my job, why is my gender a problem?" Sabi had told TNM.
(With IANS inputs)