The CISF, the paramilitary force that guards over 60 airports in the country and the Delhi Metro, has sought more time to reply to the government on whether transgenders can be recruited as its combat officers, officials said on Saturday.
In a first-of-its-kind move, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had recently asked for "comments" on the issue from the five paramilitary or Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) so that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can be intimated whether or not to include the "transgender" category in the soon-to-be published notification for this year's CAPFs' Assistant Commandants (ACs) exams.
The AC is the entry-level officer rank in the five CAPFs -- Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
BSF, ITBP, SSB and CRPF have sent their comments to the ministry, stating that they are ready to take transgenders as officers as they follow the principle of "gender neutrality".
These forces have also asked their training establishments to obtain their own copies of a recently-enacted legislation for transgenders and the related DoPT guidelines for a better understanding of the new law, the officials said.
The CISF has said it requires more time to submit its response to the home ministry as it wants to "discuss the issue in detail" within the organisation, especially with its field commanders.
The 1.62 lakh personnel-strong force has over 350 armed security units across the country.
The CISF wants to "apply its mind" over the proposal, officials privy to the development told PTI.
The main charter of the force entails large public interaction by way of body frisking and pat-down search of an individual (in certain cases) at its duty locations such as airports, Delhi Metro, government and private establishments and installations in the nuclear, aerospace and power domains, among others.
The CISF controls the entry and exit of people and goods at facilities where its armed personnel are deployed as part of its charter to provide counter-terror and anti-sabotage cover.
"Seeking more time for discussion, however, does not mean that the CISF is against the move. The force is committed to providing equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their gender," an official said.
The time was sought to provide a comprehensive reply to the ministry, he added.
A senior home ministry official said if they find that the CISF has strong and valid reservations against the move, an arrangement can be made in the UPSC exams, where transgenders can apply for officers' posts in all the CAPFs except the CISF.
"There is a precedent of such arrangement as for many years, female candidates were not able to opt for the BSF and ITBP in the UPSC exams for recruiting CAPF officers. The BSF and the ITBP got combat women officers much later," he said.
While border-guarding forces like the BSF, ITBP and SSB have informed the MHA that they are "ready to receive" transgender officers, the CRPF has said it will make their induction "compatible".
"We fully value the spirit of the order of the honourable Supreme Court on this subject. The CRPF already has a gender neutral work environment.
"In view of impending policy guidelines of MHA, we shall make it further compatible as per the need," the 3.25 lakh personnel-strong force has said.
A senior CAPF commander had earlier said the forces have discussed the "challenges and opportunities" that can come with transgenders as officers.
"What we have found after a preliminary analysis is that this is a watershed moment for the CAPFs like a few years ago, when women were recruited for the first time in constabulary and officer ranks.
"Transgenders will add to the rich profile of these forces. Also, if uniformed forces do not lead by example, how can we expect other sections of the society to shed old inhibitions," he had said.
It was analysed that there can be issues of acceptance among the troops in the initial phases, but like the women gelled well as colleagues and commanders in these forces, it might be the same with transgenders, the CAPF commander had said.
"If a person of any gender has what we call officer-like qualities (OLQ), then he can join the CAPFs on that merit alone.
"Also, all candidates are required to clear specific medical, mental and physical benchmarks for being recruited as officers to lead combat troops," he had said.
The Centre had notified the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in December last year and the home ministry feels that it is essential to give a "level-playing field" to transgenders in all avenues and services, including combat policing.
The legislation provides that no establishment shall discriminate against transgender persons in matters of employment, recruitment, promotion and other related issues.
The personnel ministry, early this year, had also asked all ministries and departments to modify the relevant examination rules to include "transgender" as a separate category of gender for central government jobs.