In a decision that can be regarded as a big boost for single mothers as well as unwed mothers, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has held that single mothers need not disclose the name of the child’s father at the time of registering the child’s birth. To understand this better, lets take a look at the facts of this case.
According to the facts of the case, the petitioner is a divorced lady who underwent an intrauterine fertility treatment and insemination was done through a donor. Following this, the petitioner gave birth to a baby but the surname of the newborn was registered wrongly in the name of a person who was helping her in hospital solely on humanitarian grounds. What followed next is even more baffling!
Pointing out that the man named as the father of her baby is neither her husband nor the child’s father, the petitioner had tried to get this error rectified, but it was rejected on the ground that there is no relevant law to correct or rectify the name of the father alone.
However, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has given big relief and here are some of the important takeaways for single/unwed mothers:
1. If a single mother applies for a birth certificate for a child who is born from her womb, the authorities can ask her to furnish an affidavit and then, issue a certificate, unless there is a court direction to the contrary.
2. The confidentiality of the donor (in this case, the child was born with the help of a semen donor) requires to be protected. This is important for single mothers who choose to conceive through an intrauterine fertility treatment.
3. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure that no citizen suffers any inconvenience or disadvantage merely because the parents fail or neglect to register the birth.
4. As the concerned child has been born through an intrauterine fertility treatment and from the woman’s womb, it follows that the authorities cannot insist on disclosure of the father’s name.
5. Section 15 of The Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1969, r/w Rule 11 of the Tamil Nadu Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 2000 clearly indicates that the Registrar is well within his powers to carry out any errors that may have crept in the birth certificates.
Citing ABC vs The State AIR 2015 SC 2569, the petitioner lady in this case had relied on the SC judgment given in the aforementioned case:
“The appellant has not obtained a birth certificate for her son who is nearly five years old. This is bound to create problems for the child’s future.”
It was also pointed out in ABC vs The State AIR 2015 SC 2569 that Courts should not lose sight of the fact that upon a guardianship petition being laid before the court, the concerned child ceases to be in the exclusive guardianship of parents, thereafter until attaining the age of majority (18 years), the child continues in curial curatorship.
You may find it interesting to know that way back in 2003, the Tamil Nadu government had given a historic nod to permit the mother’s initials before a child’s name. For those who are wondering what this means, it is a common practice in South India to add ‘initials’ to the name. Some famous names, for instance, include C. Rajagopalachari, V.K. Krishna Menon, V.R. Krishna Iyer and so on.
So, now, what do these initials stand for? The traditional practice is to incorporate either the father’s family/caste name as the ‘initial’ or the family name along with the name of the place where the community originally came from. The Tamil Nadu government ‘tweaked’ this in 2003, which meant that children could be given their mother’s initials.
Summing up, the Madras High Court’s latest ruling is sure to benefit single mothers as the responsibility now lies on the State to ensure they face no hardships or inconvenience.