Supreme Court to examine plea for transparency in birth records

Registration of birth is a right of every child and is the first step to establishing their individual legal identity, the petition said

December 02, 2023 10:31 pm | Updated 11:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India. FIle

A view of the Supreme Court of India. FIle | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court has issued notice in a petition seeking the effective implementation and full realisation of the object and purpose of the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969. The apex court issued notice to the Union on December 1.

A Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna agreed to examine the petition, filed by activist Sabu Mathew George, which said the “registration of birth is a right of every child and is the first step to establishing their individual legal identity”.

“This is a fundamental right which has been recognised in various international conventions as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These vital statistics are also essential for transparency and for effective demographic research and interventions in socio-economic planning. They help to evaluate the effectiveness of various social sector programmes. A notable example of this is the important role played by demographic research in a proper assessment of declining or rising sex ratios to better inform policies on protection of girl children,” the petition argued.

The plea said States and Union Territories were not following guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for the prompt and transparent registration of births in a 2011 judgment in the Committee for Legal Aid to Poor v. Union of India.

Five years later, in 2016, the top court had again intervened in the issue while dealing with grievances pf sex-selective abortions in the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab v. Union of India case. The court had noted that these abortions resulted in the imbalance of sex ratios. The court had found the authorities indifferent to the implementation of the law in force.

The petition reminded that, at the time, the court had directed the setting up of a “centralised database of civil registration records from all registration units so that information can be made available from the website regarding the number of boys and girls being born”.

The plea said the authorities have failed to adhere to the court’s direction to provide information on the database, which included the birth information for each district, municipality, corporation or gram panchayat in order to facilitate an immediate visual comparison of boys and girls born.

“The failure to properly implement the RBD Act, 1969 as well as the directions of this Hon’ble Court has resulted in the data for registration of births in various States/ Union Territories not being made available to the public, thereby hindering transparency, demographic research, as well as the right of the public to access crucial information with regard to births in the country,” the petition submitted.

It urged the court to direct the government to publish information and statistical reports on registered births as mandated by the RBD Act, 1969 on an annual basis, and make the reports available on the States’ portals.

The apex court issued notice to the Union on December 1. The case is listed in February 2024.

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