Why does the government continue to ignore the existence of the ‘third sex’ which now has a legal identity?
On Thursday, the central government, in the form of a clarification, reminded people of the ceiling on gold they can legitimately hold without attracting a seizure and stringent tax. But in this exercise, a section of society has felt snubbed yet again — transgenders.
A flurry of clarifications that emanated from the Finance Ministry, the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Press Information Bureau on Thursday recalled a 1994-circular to assert the quantity of gold that can be held by “married lady”, “unmarried lady” and “male”.
Tax authorities will not seize jewellery/ornaments up to 500 gm for a “married lady,” 250 gm for an “unmarried lady” and 100 gm for a male individual, even if “prima facie”, it does not seem to match with the income record of the assessee, the Finance Ministry said in its statement, referring to a CBDT circular dated May 11, 1994. Later in the day, CBDT also sent separate clarification, reiterating the gold limits.
All these clarifications on the latest amendments in the Income Tax Act left transgenders completely out of the ambit of the taxation provisions although the Supreme Court, by a historic judgment in April 2014, granted constitutional recognition to transgenders as a third gender and directed the government to protect their rights.
Senior lawyer Anand Grover, who led the battle for personal autonomy and dignity for the transgenders in the Supreme Court, called it “unfortunate” that even the latest communications from the Centre fails to acknowledge transgenders as a distinct class.
“Yes… they have to be acknowledged as a class. You cannot have government circulars and notifications not taking into account there is a third gender that has been legally recognised by the highest court of the land. This indifference must go,” Grover said.
The community leaders, Grover said, should first file a representation with the government, citing the “gross deficiency” of their non-inclusion.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender rights activist, said the transgenders have held gold and gold ornaments since decades but it was surprising to see the tax department disregarding them as a class altogether.