Imphal, Oct 19: The Supreme Court has taken a significant step in protecting the rights and freedom of expression of a transgender rights activist in Manipur. In a recent interim order, the court stopped the arrest of Santha Khurai, a transgender woman, who was facing legal action over her social media posts regarding the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the welfare of transgender persons. The court also prohibited the Manipur police from initiating any new cases based on her social media content.
This decision was made by a bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta, who took cognizance of the urgency and importance of the case. Santha Khurai had filed a writ petition seeking protection from police actions and the quashing of summons issued to her by the Manipur police.
The crux of the matter revolved around the legality of the police’s actions. The petitioner contended that the police’s actions were illegal, pointing to Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which explicitly forbids police officials from summoning women or children to places other than their residences. This legal provision is intended to safeguard the dignity and safety of women and children during legal proceedings.
The case originated from social media posts made by Santha Khurai on September 1, 2023. In her posts, she raised concerns about the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the welfare of transgender individuals and various related programs within the state of Manipur. Her posts were critical of the handling of these funds and called for accountability.
In response to these posts, a group of male police officers conducted a search at the petitioner’s parents’ house on the morning of September 3, 2023. This raised concerns about the safety and security of the petitioner, who is a transgender woman.
The petitioner’s legal argument was anchored in the precedent set by the Supreme Court in the case of NALSA v. Union of India. This landmark case recognized and affirmed the rights of transgender individuals, including the right to self-identify their gender and protection from discrimination. The court’s decision in NALSA underscored the importance of upholding and protecting transgender rights, and it significantly impacted the legal landscape concerning transgender issues in India.
Additionally, the petitioner argued that requiring her to appear before a police station not only violated her legal rights but also put her personal safety and bodily autonomy at risk. The police’s actions were seen as a violation of the protective measures in place to ensure the well-being of women and children involved in legal proceedings.
In support of her claims, the petition cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Nandini Satpathy v. P.L. Dani (1978) 2 SCC 424, which emphasized the need for police personnel to abide by the law and ensure the protection of individuals, particularly women and children, during legal processes.
The interim order from the Supreme Court is a positive development for the protection of transgender rights and freedom of expression in India. It underscores the importance of upholding these rights and ensuring that legal actions comply with the law and established legal precedents. The court’s decision provides a level of legal protection to transgender activists and individuals who use social media platforms to advocate for their rights and raise concerns about issues affecting their community.
It’s worth noting that the case remains pending, and the court’s interim order serves as a protective measure while the legal proceedings continue.