Ministry of External Affairs HQ at Janpath (Photo| Special Arrangement)
Ministry of External Affairs HQ at Janpath (Photo| Special Arrangement)

‘Need time for passport policy addressing sex-change abroad’: MEA to Delhi HC

It was informed to the high court that the identity of such Indian citizens can be verified through biometric records which are already available with the authorities.

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed the Delhi High Court that it needs time to consider the suggestion for a policy that enables individuals who undergo sex change surgery outside India to get fresh passports without hassle.

Before Justice Subramonium Prasad, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has suggested to the MEA to come up with a policy to fast-track the process of passport issuance to individuals who undergo sex reassignment surgery abroad, as biometrics do not change after such medical procedures.     

It was informed to the high court that the identity of such Indian citizens can be verified through biometric records which are already available to the authorities. As MEA sought time to examine the matter with different stakeholders and its technical feasibility before coming up with such a policy, the court posted the matter for further hearing on December 19.

The development came on a plea by a transgender woman who sought direction from the authorities to re-issue her passport with her revised particulars, including a new name and gender since her appearance changed after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

The petitioner, male by birth, had moved to the US in 2018 after getting a job there and transitioned from male to female between 2016 and 2022, after which she legally secured a change of name and gender by way of a court order in the US. She approached the Indian authorities on January 18 this year for a re-issue of her passport with her new identity.

The court said though the passport was issued and the matter became infructuous, it directed the Centre’s counsel to evolve a policy that allows people who undergo sex change operations outside India to get a fresh passport for their new identity without difficulties.     

The MHA, in a letter, said that the matter has been examined in consultation with the field agency and since the biometric information is not liable to change after one undergoes such medical procedures, a mechanism or policy may be developed by the MEA, as authorities already possess the biometric records to verify the recipient's identity before issuance of new passports.     

A letter from the concerned embassy addressed to the Bureau of Immigration to facilitate immigration clearance in such cases, is also required to avoid any confusion at the Immigration Check Post, the MHA said in the letter.

The MEA, in its letter, said the MHA is in agreement with the MEA that if a person undergoes a sex-change operation abroad and due to that operation there is a change in name, sex, as well as appearance of the person, and the details in the old passport do not match with the changes, such people may apply for re-issuance of passport at concerned Indian Mission/Post abroad.

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