CHENNAI: The relationship between the biological parents and the children can never be severed, except in accordance with the provisions of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, Madras High Court has ruled.
Justice V Ramasubramanian gave the ruling while passing orders on a writ petition from a woman, who prayed for mentioning her second husband’s name in the passport for her teenaged daughter, born of her first marriage.
The petitioner, Deepa, got married in September, 1998 and had a female child born in June, 2001. However, the marriage was dissolved by a Family Court in July, 2003. But she was having custody of the girl child, now aged 13 years, without any claim from the former husband. She got married to another person in September, 2013. As both are software engineers, she applied for passport for her daughter but the authority declined as the name of the step father was mentioned in the application. Hence, the petition.
The Judge observed that if one goes strictly by law, the prayer in the writ petition could not be granted. But that would leave the future of a minor girl completely in dark. Cases of this nature are going to increase in the coming days and with the government failing to take note of societal changes to modify the law suitably, the Court is duty bound to issue appropriate directions, without encroaching upon the territory of the Legislature.
While the Courts are certainly obliged to take care of the immediate interests of these children by giving certain directions to the Passport Office, the Judge cautioned that they could not overlook the long-term needs and rights of these children. For instance, the right of a child to inherit the estate of its biological father, will get defeated by a direction to effect correction of entries in the statutory records.
Therefore, the Judge said he was of the view that the Ministry of External Affairs is obliged to come up with innovative steps to resolve problems of this nature. The Passport Manual has to be amended to incorporate additional columns in the applications so that names of the biological parents as well as step-parents could be indicated. This would reduce the possibility of any discrepancy between the entries in the birth register and school records. Such a step would also ensure that the rights guaranteed to children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, to which India is a signatory, are protected. “While it is necessary to secure a passport for the minor daughter of the petitioner at the earliest, it is also necessary to ensure that the emergent needs do not destroy the future rights of the child,” the Judge said and disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the Centre and to the passport authority to issue, within four weeks, the passport by indicating the name of the step father in the column reserved for father.
“The Ministry of External Affairs may incorporate suitable provisions in the Manual and add suitable columns in the applications for the issue of passports, to enable the parties to indicate the biological and the step father,” the Judge added.