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2 yrs after sacking transgender sailor, Navy goes back on promise to give her fresh chance

In August, the Navy had agreed in Delhi HC to let Sabi Giri appear for a ‘tradesman mate’ exam. But now it says she’s not eligible for any position.

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Hyderabad: Two years after sacking her, the Indian Navy has now told transgender sailor Sabi Giri that she is not eligible for any job with the force, which she had served for seven years.

Giri, earlier known as Manish Kumar Giri, was controversially dismissed in October 2017, but had challenged the Navy’s decision before the Delhi High Court. Since the Navy’s rules forbid a trans-woman from sailor duties, Giri had also made a plea to be given an alternate job at the base.

But despite agreeing to let her appear for an exam for a ‘tradesman mate’ position before the court in August, the Navy has now said she is not eligible for any post as she has only passed class XII and is above 25 years of age, according to her lawyer Amritananda Chakravorty. Giri is now 27.

Chakravorty told ThePrint that this amounts to “the government going back on its offer”.  

Anil Soni, the standing counsel for the government of India, said, “The Navy had earlier, on compassionate grounds, agreed to allow her to take the tradesman mate exam. But a review by the officials found that she is disqualified for any Navy job for reasons including her termination, which has made her ineligible even in ex-serviceman category.”  

The Navy allows women officers but not as sailors, and there is no provision for transgenders, making Giri’s case very unusual.

Also read: How Indian Navy operated a secret commando group and spooked Pakistan in 1971

What happened in the August hearing

On 14 August, after interacting with Giri in the presence of advocates representing both sides, the court had said: “Without prejudice to the right and contention of both the parties, it is agreed that the petitioner would appear for an examination for a permanent post viz. tradesman mate.”

The matter was then posted to 21 October, and speaking to ThePrint a few days before the hearing, Giri had hoped she would be back in the Navy soon.

“I am now preparing for the exam, which I am expecting to be in November,” she had said.

She did not respond to calls after Monday’s hearing.

At the time of her dismissal, Giri had said she was determined to fight “gender-based injustice”, adding that she would even knock on the Supreme Court doors if needed.

The government’s lawyer Soni said, “With the Navy’s refusal to regular employment, the only option left for Sabi is a Data Entry Operator job with a private firm associated with the Navy. Since Sabi had already declined this offer made initially by the Navy, the situation is back to square one.”

Giri’s advocate Chakravorty said they would now argue the matter on its merits. The high court has posted the next hearing in the case for 12 March.

The case

Manish Kumar Giri, who is originally from Bihar, had joined the Navy in 2010 when he was 18 years old. Having been given basic training at INS Chilika in Odisha, he was sent to Visakhapatnam for ship training, and was serving there at the Eastern Naval Command as a sailor.

Then, in 2016, Giri underwent a sex reassignment surgery and took the name Sabi.

“I never had these convoluted sensations about my gender before. I started feeling different after a year or so of joining the Navy,” Giri had told this reporter.

Giri had approached the Navy doctors seeking help, but was allegedly declined proper counselling, and only realised the presence of the gender identity disorder after consulting private doctors in Visakhapatnam.

“I was agonised, down with depression for some time. Lastly, I went to New Delhi in October 2016 and had the surgery done. I spent a lot of my savings on the operation,” she had said.

After returning to Visakhapatnam, Giri did not reveal her new identity, but the truth came out when she developed a urinary tract infection and was reportedly isolated in a mental care facility.

Faced with a peculiar case, the Eastern Naval Command officials sent a report to the headquarters in New Delhi, seeking a decision on her.

In October 2017, a year after she altered her sex, the Navy discharged Giri, evoking the clause of ‘Service No Longer Required’ under the Navy Regulations.

“The serving sailor who underwent sex reassignment surgery at a private facility whilst on leave was administratively discharged from the service. The individual chose to undergo irreversible gender re-assignment on his own accord, whilst on leave wilfully altering his gender status from the one he was recruited for at the time of his induction,” the Navy had said in a statement.

“He has therefore breached the Recruitment Regulations and eligibility criteria for his employment as a sailor in the Indian Navy. The existing service rules and regulations do not permit the sailor’s continued employment owing to his altered gender status, medical condition and resultant employability restrictions.”

Also read: Army, Air Force & Navy studying each other’s laws to bring into effect Joint Services Act


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