Tamil Nadu

Father’s name in birth certificate is optional: HC

Can’t compel a woman to disclose name of child’s father, says judge

In a judgment that will be celebrated by single mothers and those going in for intrauterine insemination, the Madras High Court has ruled that there is no legal obligation on the part of a mother to disclose the name of the father at the time of registering her child’s birth.

The court said it was sufficient for her to file a sworn affidavit that the child was born from her womb. Justice M.S. Ramesh held that even women who had been deserted by their husbands could obtain birth certificates for their children without mentioning the name of their father.

The judge said that women who bring up children with their own income source could not be compelled to name the deserters in birth certificates. He pointed out that neither the Births and Deaths Act of 1969, a Central enactment, nor the Tamil Nadu Registration of Births and Deaths Rules of 2000, framed by the State government by exercising powers conferred on it under the Act, requires the father’s name to be recorded in the birth register maintained by local bodies.

Correcting the error

The judgment was passed on a writ petition filed by a divorcee, who had given birth to a baby girl at a hospital in Tiruchi, through intrauterine insemination.

However, the Tiruchi Municipal Corporation issued a birth certificate on August 9, 2017, naming the donor as the child’s father. The petitioner’s request to issue the certificate without mentioning the father’s name was rejected on the premise that the law does not provide for removing it from birth certificates.

Challenging the rejection before the Madurai Bench of the High Court, petitioner’s counsel Shabnam Banu contended that Section 15 of the Births and Deaths Act empowers the officials to correct errors, if any, in birth and death certificates. Hence, the erroneous entry of semen donor’s name as the child’s father should be corrected immediately, she argued.

The judge passed an interim order directing the Tiruchi Corporation to treat the entry of the semen donor’s name as an error and delete it forthwith.

In the final order, he recorded the civic body’s submission that a new birth certificate had been issued without the father’s name. Further, he stated the need to protect the donor’s confidentiality as disclosing his identity could lead to prejudice.

“As such, the grievance of the petitioner has been met. Hence, no further orders are required in the present writ petition. However, an incidental issue that arises for consideration is with respect to the authority of the officials to insist upon the petitioner to declare the identity of the father of the child in the birth certificate,” the judge said and went on to deal with the issue in depth.

He said that in cases like that of the petitioner, the name of the child’s father could not be mentioned at all since the birth of the child was through a semen donor unrelated to the mother.

“There are also cases where women are constrained to raise children with their own sources in view of their unwilling and unconcerned partners. It would be totally unjustifiable to compel single or unwed mothers to declare the name of the father of the child who had chosen to abandon the child,” the judge said.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 5:42:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/fathers-name-in-birth-certificate-is-optional-hc/article24403600.ece

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