In another first, Bengal gets a transgender Lok Adalat judge
A social worker for many years, Joyita Mondal Mahi made news on July 8 when she attended a Lok Adalat at Islampur in the North Dinajpur as the judge, the first member of the transgender community in Bengal to do so.
Till last month, Joyita Mondal Mahi was a member of the transgender community who was working for the welfare and development of her marginalised community. On July 8, the world changed for the 29-year-old when she attended office as Bengal’s first transgender judge of a Lok Adalat.
On her first day as judge at Islampur in the North Dinajpur, Joyita, who was known as Joyonto in the past, heard quite a few cases involving recovery of loan taken from banks.
“In most of the cases I suggested negotiation which the litigants found acceptable. In one specific case I ordered the bank authorities to confiscate a mortgaged property and recover the loan because the borrower simply refused to sit for talks, ” said Mondal.
Records can’t establish whether Mondal is the first transgender person to be appointed judge of a Lok Adalat in the country and she too is not too keen to find out. “Law says that Lok Adalats can appoint social workers with established credibility as judges. I was appointed because I am a social worker and not because I am a transgender person. I cross checked with several national associations and NGOs but none could say for sure whether any transgender person had earlier been appointed as a Lok Adalat judge,” said Mondal.
“When I came to Islampur around nine years ago my job was restricted to working for the rights and development of the transgender and LGBT community. But as I slowly progressed and got in touch with district administration officials, I felt the urge to work for all people and not just a community,” she said.
In 2015, Mondal joined projects that involved setting up of an old- age home for HIV- positive people and formation of patient’s welfare committees. “My performance drew the attention of the district administration and I was recommended for this appointment,” said Mondal.
She said her new assignment will not hamper her regular work because Lok Adalats are convened once or twice a month. “There is a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,500 for every session I attend. I am also entitled to travel expenses etc. But the association, responsibility and honour are more important than the money,” said Mondal.
Ranjita Sinha, member of he West Bengal Transgender Development Board said Mondal got the job without any recommendation from either the board or any association representing the third gender. “And I am sure she will do well,” said Sinha.