In a landmark ruling, Kerala High Court noted that every person has the right to include his/her mother’s name alone in their birth certificate and other identity documents.
Recognising the agonies that children of unmarried or rape victims have to face, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan noted that this right is owed to citizens as the State has a duty to protect all citizens, even those who may have been conceived out of wedlock or out of rape, and their right to privacy, dignity and liberty are protected.
The bench held that such children should also be protected by the State, especially in light of the right to reproductive choice being recognised as a fundamental right under Article 21, failing which, constitutional courts will step in.
“It is clear that it is the right of a person to include his mother’s name alone in the birth certificate, identity certificates and other documents. As I observed earlier, there are children of rape victims and children of unwed mothers in this country. Their right of privacy, dignity and liberty cannot be curtailed by any authority. The mental agony of such person is to be imagined by every citizen of this country while intruding into their privacy. In some cases it will be a deliberate act and in other cases it may be by mistake. But the State should protect citizens of all such kind as equal to other citizens without disclosing their identity and privacy. Otherwise, they will face unimaginable mental agonies,” reads the judgment.
The High Court bench said, “A child of an unwed mother is also a citizen of our country, and nobody can infringe any of his/her fundamental rights, which are guaranteed in our Constitution. He/she is a son/daughter of not only the unwed mother but this great country ‘India’.”
“We need to live in a country where there will be no example to cite for the word “bastard” and let that word continue in the dictionary pages without getting an opportunity to give examples to the young student generation of English. The children of unwed mothers and the children of the raped victims can also live in this country with the fundamental rights of privacy, liberty, and dignity. None can intrude into their personal life, and if it happens, the constitutional Court of this country will protect their fundamental rights. The Apex Court has held that a woman’s reproductive choice is a fundamental right and compassed the same under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” added the bench.
Citing an example of such children who endure agonies, the High Court bench referred to the tale of Karna from the Mahabharatha.
“We want a society with no such characters like “Karna,” who curses his life because of the insult he faced for not knowing the whereabouts of his parents,” the bench said.
The petitioner has filed a writ petition seeking to expunge and remove the father’s name from the birth certificate. The High Court bench directed for the issuance of a certificate showing the mother’s name only as a single parent.
The mother of the child was a minor at the time of petitioner’s birth and was impregnated under mysterious circumstances by an unidentified person.
Due to the confusion, father’s name was recorded differently in three different identity documents.
While allowing the petition, the bench referred to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 and the Kerala Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1999, especially the Sections which empower the Registrar of Births and Deaths to make any corrections in documents.
The bench also drew attention to the letter issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs wherein all Chief Registrars of Birth and Death were directed to follow Supreme Court directions. As per the Supreme Court directions, in case of a single/unwed mother, birth certificates may be issued on her producing an affidavit, and without insisting on the identity of the father.
“There will be a direction to the 1st respondent to expunge and remove the name of the father from the Birth Register maintained at his office regarding the 1st petitioner and issue certificate showing the name of mother only as a single parent, if such a request is made by the petitioners, ” the judgment stated.
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