An expert committee on NRI marriages constituted by the Ministry of External Affairs has received a suggestion to make mothers, instead of fathers, the natural guardians of a child. As per the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, a father is the natural guardian of a Hindu minor, which also adds that the custody of a child under the age of five shall normally be with the mother. The suggestion is part of several ideas that the ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has received from various stakeholders and shared with the committee as part of an inter-ministerial consultation on the issue of NRI marriages.
“The Expert Committee will take into account all such suggestions and make its recommendations to the government. “The recommendations will be examined by the government in consultation with a larger group of stakeholders to decide on the future course of action,” according an official statement issued by the MWCD today.
The expert committee, headed by former Chairperson of NRI Commission of Punjab, was constituted last year to look into grievances arising out of breakdown of NRI marriages. The group has been appointed to suggest amendments in existing laws and policies to address these complaints. The Hindu law on guardianship also lays down that in case of an illegitimate child a mother will be the natural guardian and after her it will be the father.
The legal guardian of a married Hindu woman is her husband, according to this law.