Thursday, July 9, 2015

SC: Unwed mother can be sole guardian

Unwed mother can be sole guardian: Supreme Court

KRISHNADAS RAJAGOPAL

NEW DELHI, July 6, 2015

With this judgment, the Supreme Court has given its stamp of approval to a woman's status as an unwed mother of a child

Upholding the right of an unwed mother to apply for sole guardianship over her minor son without prior consent of the child’s absentee biological father, the Supreme Court on Monday said women are increasingly choosing to raise their children alone, and there was no need to thrust an uncaring father on a child.

The young mother, whom the apex court described as “well-educated, gainfully employed and financially secure,” had refused to divulge the name of the biological father of her child to the courts.

She reasoned that the man, who was married and had a family, never showed any interest in her child, whom she raised on her own. She wanted guardianship rights so that her son would inherit her financial assets.

“In situations where the father has not exhibited any concern for his offspring, giving him legal recognition would be an exercise in futility. In today’s society, where women are increasingly choosing to raise their children alone, we see no purpose in imposing an unwilling and unconcerned father on an otherwise viable family nucleus,” the judgment by a Bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and A.M. Sapre held.

The judgment, authored by Justice Sen, observed that a man who has chosen to forsake his duties and responsibilities is not a necessary constituent for the well-being of the child.

“Any responsible man would keep track of his offspring and be concerned for the welfare of the child he has brought into the world; this does not appear to be so in the present case,” the apex court held, allowing the mother to apply for guardianship without disclosing the name of the biological father.

The court agreed with the woman, who preferred anonymity and is known only by the acronym ‘ABC’ on court records, that it would be beneficial if the father’s name is not disclosed now. She said the guardianship can be altered if the father raised any objections.

Uniform Civil Code stressed

The Supreme Court directed that unwed mothers can get birth certificates issued for their biological children merely by furnishing an affidavit to this effect. In the present case, the legal battle for the woman, a Christian, started in 2011 when the local Guardian Court rejected her application under the Guardians and Wards Act after she refused to part with the father’s details or name.

Under Section 11 of the Act, a mother applying for sole guardianship needs prior consent of the biological father. Section 19 goes further to say that a mother cannot be the sole guardian if the father is alive and fit.

Her appeal in the Delhi High Court was dismissed for the same reason. In fact, the High Court even reasoned that her status as a single mother could only be determined after hearing from the father too.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the “predominant legal thought across the world and in some statutes in India” is that a mother is best suited to care for her child. The court further made this a strong case for ushering in a Uniform Civil Code. “Christian unwed mothers in India are disadvantaged when compared to their Hindu counterparts, who are the natural guardians of their illegitimate children by virtue of their maternity alone. It would be apposite for us to underscore that our Directive Principles envision the existence of a Uniform Civil Code, but this remains an unaddressed constitutional expectation.”


Also read the related stories

Unwed Mother Not Compelled to Disclose Father's Identity, Rules Supreme Court

Written by A Vaidyanathan | Published: July 06, 2015 22:33 IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today held that unwed mother can have the custody of the child without the father's consent and she must not be compelled to disclose the identity of the father to the authorities. Her right of privacy is of paramount importance, the court added.

The court held that an unwed mother is entitled to birth certificate of the child without the father's name and directed all authorities to ensure that no citizen suffers without birth certificate for having a single parent.

"In today's society, where women are increasingly choosing to raise their children alone, we see no purpose in imposing an unwilling and unconcerned father on an otherwise viable family nucleus," said the two-judge bench headed by Justice Vikramajit Sen.

"It seems to us that a man who has chosen to forsake his duties and responsibilities is not a necessary constituent for the well-being of the child."

Stressing on the need for the woman's fundamental right to privacy, the bench said the welfare of the child will not be undermined if the woman is not compelled to disclose the identity of the father or that a "court notice is mandatory in the child's interest".

"The views of an uninvolved father are not essential, in our opinion, to protect the interests of a child born out of wedlock and being raised solely by his/her mother," the court said.

The judgment came in a case in which a woman, who gave birth to a son in 2010, has raised him without any assistance or involvement of the father. But when she tried to make her son the nominee to all her savings and other insurance policies, she was told that she must either declare the name of the father or get a guardianship/adoption certificate from a Court.

She had moved Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court dismissed her appeal. 


Also read the FULL Judgment at the following links 



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This Blog Spot is meant for publishing landmark judgments pronounced by the Court of law as we collected from the renowned Dailies, Magazines, etc., so as to create an awareness to the general public and also to keep it as a ready reckoner by them. As such the readers may extend their gratitude towards the Original Author as we quoted at the bottom of each Post under the title "Courtesy/Sources". Furthermore, the Blog Authors are no way responsible for the correctness of the materials published herein and the readers may verify the concerned valuable sources.



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