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Special courts to safeguard rights of transgenders: CJ

By Our Correspondent
June 19, 2018

LAHORE: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday said that special courts would be created to safeguard rights of the transgender community.

The CJ was heading a two-member SC bench hearing a suo motu case regarding non-issuance of national identity cards to transgenders at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry on the third day of Eidul Fitr. Justice Ijazul Ahsan was the other bench member.

"Unless and until they are provided with the court's protection, their issues cannot be resolved," he remarked, adding that any sort of maltreatment or eve-teasing of the transgender community would not be tolerated.

“The problems of the transgender community cannot be solved until they are provided legal protection,” the CJ noted.

The CJ ordered for constitution of a special committee to ensure issuance of free Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) to transgenders of Pakistan and sought recommendations for welfare of the beleaguered community within three weeks.

During the course of hearing, the CJ remarked that CNICs should be issued through one-window operation, adding that the SC would monitor the progress online. “I myself will monitor the entire process.”

The CJ said: “All those transgender persons who have CNICs should be allowed to exercise their right to vote. Khwaja Saraz (transgenders) are an important part of our society. “We don’t know about the government but we will try to provide all legal provisions to transgender persons,” he added. “Whether the state takes any steps or not, the judiciary will do everything in its capacity to ensure that the transgender community gets its due rights. As society, we should be ashamed of being cruel and inconsiderate towards them,” the CJ remarked.

The court sought recommendations from the committee, comprising Akhuwat Foundation Chairman Dr Amjad Saqib, foundation's president Professor Humayun Ehsan and Punjab chief secretary and advocate general. Dr Amjad presented the body's recommendations before the court after an hour of discussions with the members. Dr Amjad recommended that the committees should be formed on a provincial as well as district levels.

He suggested that every province’s committee should be headed by the provincial chief secretary and include members from the Social Welfare Department, Baitul Mal, Women’s Welfare, Home Department, Punjab Social Protection Department and the Health Department. At district level, Dr Saqib advised that committees should also be created which should be led by deputy commissioner, adding that the committees should also have representatives from the bar associations. He also suggested restraining the use of words or phrases which are aimed at ridiculing the transgender community.

The CJ observed that the court had previously directed the use of the word “Masihi” to replace the previously coined term “Esai” while referring to members of the Christian community and suggested that a similar action could be taken for the transgender community whereby they are prevented from being the subject of mockery.

“It is our duty to provide all minorities with protection and dignity,” he acknowledged, adding that the court would ensure implementation of Dr Amjad’s recommendations. The chief secretary recommended that identity cards be provided to transgenders free of cost within seven days. He informed the court that 40 committees have been formed for the purpose at provincial and district levels. The CJ instructed authorities concerned to conduct workshops to raise awareness and shed light on the issues faced by the community. He said that the committee would be provided the platform of law and justice commission to organise workshops.

He also ordered for formation of a 10-member nationwide committee, which would conduct informative seminars for transgenders.

The CJ took notice of the matter during a visit to Foundation House, Lahore where transgender persons complained about non-issuance of CNICs.

Marriage halls

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took on Monday suo motu notice of construction of marriage halls within the vicinity of the University of Punjab.

The top judge sought a reply over the construction work from the Lahore Development Authority.

“On what basis have commercial engagements been allowed to carry out within the vicinity of the university,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar questioned.

The CJ also turned the petition of a citizen over the issue into suo motu notice.

On April 21, the transfer of University of Punjab land to the provincial government was suspended after Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry took action against it.

A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar, also summoned more details pertaining to the issue from the Punjab government.