Centre Waives Surgery Certificate Requirement for Gender Change in Passports

  • 30 Apr 2024

In April 2024, the Centre informed the Madras High Court that individuals seeking to change their sex in passports will no longer need to submit surgical certificates, easing the process for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

Key Points

  • Legal Resolution: The Centre's senior standing counsel informed the Madras High Court that sex reassignment surgery certificates will no longer be required for passport applicants declaring their gender identity through sworn affidavits.
  • Court Disposition: The First Division Bench disposed of a public interest litigation petition pending since 2019 following the Centre's submission.
  • Constitutional Challenge: The petitioner had challenged the constitutionality of Passport Rules, 1980, arguing that the requirement for surgical certificates violated Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.
  • Updated Guidelines: The Central government presented an updated compendium of instructions related to passport issuance, indicating that surgical certificates would only be necessary in rare cases and primarily for transgender applicants.
  • Affidavit Requirement: Applicants undergoing gender change will now need to file a sworn affidavit and provide a supporting certificate from the hospital where the surgery was performed, if applicable.
  • Police Verification: Passports will be issued after fresh police verification, and applicants changing their gender identity will not require surgical reconstruction certificates, as self-identification will be accepted.
  • PIL Concerns: The petitioner's counsel highlighted discrepancies in the guidelines, noting that while transgender applicants were exempt from surgery certificate requirements, those changing sex from male to female or vice versa were not.
  • Judicial Response: The judges directed the Central Government Standing Counsel to address this inconsistency, leading to clarification that the same procedure for transgender applicants would apply to those changing sex.
  • Redressal of Grievance: With the Centre's assurance to extend the waiver to all gender identity changes, the PIL petition was closed, acknowledging that the petitioner's concerns had been addressed.