Akanksha Kukreti


“Tanushree, my daughter started putting ‘Late’ remark with her father’s name after I got separated with my husband in 1995,” says Swati Pathak, a teacher with Pearl Academy of Fashion. “At that time, even I used to favour her hate for her father. And why not? We both suffered a lot and faced an emotional turmoil.”

In India, a father is considered as the natural guardian of a child. In any application form or document, one has to fill his/her father’s name as guardian. The mother’s name is filled only after the father’s death. But neither Pathak nor her daughter was in favour of such guardianship. “Now the rules have changed a bit,” Pathak adds.

The case of Geeta Hariharan vs Reserve Bank of India is one such case where the petitioner won the case as the bank refused to accept her signature on an application to open relief bonds for her minor son.

Not only this, recently a 19-year-old Mumbai girl also filed a case as she was denied a passport because she refused to write her biological father’s name on the application form.

But what is the legal take on such a case? T V George, a Supreme Court advocate and solicitor explains Section 6 of Hindu Guardian Act. He says that according to the act, father is the natural guardian of a child and after him, the mother. “But under some circumstances the court has given the guardianship to the mother and at times to the grandparents also.” When asked about the gender bias in the law, he added, “A lawyer cannot explain it. It’s a question which needs to be asked in the legislature”

So, how do women deal with this? Pathak says, “the society is biased and I too face such biases but it doesn’t bother me anymore. If ever a male comes to my place people around raise their eyebrows. They doubt you like anything.”

So, it seems like Indian mothers have a long way to go as far as gender equality is concerned. As George says, cases like Hariharan’s need a good fight, “such cases cannot change the law but can make the law flexible to an extent”