CHENNAI: Though the judiciary has provided relief to single parents on multiple occasions in the past, ground realities have not changed much for them. Single parents continue to run to courts for various legal procedures and passport officials are not making it any easier insisting on a court statement, if a single mother wishes that the father’s name not be mentioned in the passport.
Thirty-four year old Radhika V (name changed) was asked to get an annexure form (annexure G, affidavit for separated couples or those with no marriage certificate) signed by the magistrate in order that she not have her spouse’s name in her passport, after passport officials claimed that her divorce papers were not enough.
Radhika tracked down an advocate and managed to get a signature from the magistrate shelling out `12,000 as fees. Common sense would deem that this would have been enough for her daughter’s passport to exclude Radhika’s former spouse’s name.
“Since I already had that signed copy with me, I thought I would be asked to produce the same for my daughter as well,” she told Express.
However, to her annoyance, passport authorities demanded that she get another annexure form (annexure K, declaration of guardian of minor) duly signed by a magistrate.
“I had to shell out another `12,000 for my daughter’s passport,” said Radhika.
In several cases including one case as far back as 2011 and one case as recent as last Friday, Delhi courts have ruled in favour of single mothers deeming that the father’s name need not be included in the passport.
This begs the question why single parents are being forced to get a court statement each time?
“Even if it is an absolute must that we have to get the order, then at least the passport authorities should create another option for single parents, where we don’t end up shelling out such large amounts of money. If it is routine, why should it cost money?” asked Radhika.
Since online applications do not proceed unless all fields are filled in, applicants find it hard to even book an appointment with authorities which necessitates a personal visit to book an appointment when they are invariably asked to produce a magistrate’s signed annexure copies.
Advocate Kavitha Balakrishnan says that she has had many NRI clients approach her for the same matter despite the High Court’s order deeming it unnecessary for a father’s name to be included in such instances.
“Passport officials claim they do not have the software that accepts applications without the father’s name and they insist on the court order because most are unaware that the father’s name is not mandatory for single parents.”
It is clear that passport officials do not take responsibility to help applicants and explain options and procedures.
“There is a ‘why-should-I-care, it’s-not-my-responsibility’-attitude,” said Balakrishnan.
“ The judiciary has passed an order, now the executive should just get down to implementing the High Court order, even a circular to the passport offices would be a step for country-wide reform, but someone has to take the initiative,” according to Balakrishnan.
When passport officials were contacted, they said that it was simply impossible to issue a passport without the father’s name and are aware of the judgements passed in favour of single parents.
“The Ministry of External Affairs has to review those rules and see what can be done but till then we have to ask for the father’s name unless the court issues a statement saying otherwise. However,without a court order we cannot help the applicant unless we get directions from the ministry,” said a senior official from the Regional Passport Office.