Kerala High Court: In a significant decision P. V. Kunhikrishnan, J., directed the Registrar of Births and Deaths to expunge the father’s name of the petitioner 1 from his birth certificate and issue a new certificate showing the name of his mother only as a single parent.
Petitioner 2 is the mother of petitioner 1 who had conceived her son (petitioner 1) when she was a minor under a mysterious circumstance by an unidentified person. Therefore, petitioner 1 had approached the High Court seeking directions to the Registrar of Births and Deaths (the Registrar) to expunge and remove his father’s name from the birth register and issue a certificate showing the mother’s name only as a single parent. Petitioner 1 contended that his father’s name is given differently in three different documents, referring it as “Z”, “Z1” and “Z2”, which creates great uncertainty and difficulty.
Petitioner 1 submitted that Section 15 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 gives power to the Registrar to correct the entries, if it is proved that any entry of a birth or death in any register kept by him is erroneous in form or substance or has been fraudulently or improperly made. Similarly, Rule 11(2) of the Kerala Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1999 states that if any person asserts that any entry in the register of births and deaths is erroneous in substance, the Registrar may correct the entry in the manner prescribed under Section 15 upon production by that person, a declaration setting forth the nature of the error and true facts of the case made by two credible persons having knowledge of the facts of the case.
Moreover, complying with the directions issued by the Supreme Court in ABC v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2015 (10) SCC 1, the Central Government also issued a circular to all Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths in the country in this regard directing that the name of the single parent will be written in the birth record, and the name of the other parent must be left blank if such requests are made.
In ABC v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2015 (10) SCC 1, the Supreme Court was to answer whether it is imperative for an unwed mother to specifically notify that the putative father of the child to whom she has given birth, in her petition for appointment as the guardian of her child. The Court answered that if a single parent/unwed mother applies for the issuance of a Birth Certificate for a child born from her womb, the Authorities concerned may only require her to furnish an affidavit to this effect, and must thereupon issue the Birth Certificate unless there is a Court direction to the contrary.
Relying on Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration, (2009) 9 SCC 1, the Court held that there is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of “personal liberty” as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution and it is important to recognize that reproductive choice can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity, and bodily integrity should be respected.
Reliance was also placed on the decision of Kerala High Court itself in XXXX v. State of Kerala, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 3285, wherein the High Court, while considering the situation of a single parent/ unwed mother getting conceived by Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), directed the government to bring out a separate form which does not contain a field requiring the name and other details of the father.
Findings and Conclusion
Hence, the Court opined 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 there are children of rape victims and children of unwed mothers and their right to privacy, dignity, and liberty cannot be curtailed by any authority.
Citing a Mahabharata reference the Court expressed,
“We do not want a society with characters like “Karna,” who curse his life because of the insult he faced for not knowing the whereabouts of his parents. We want the real brave “Karnas’ who was the real hero and fighter in “Mahabharatha”. Our Constitution and the constitutional Courts will protect all of them and the new age “Karnas” can live like any other citizen with dignity and pride.”
Consequently, the Court issued following directions:
1. The Registrar was directed to expunge and remove the name of the father of petitioner 1 from the Birth Register maintained at his office and issue a certificate showing the name of the mother only as a single parent, if such a request is made by the petitioners. The Court directed that the needful be done as expeditiously as possible, at any rate, within two weeks.
2. On the petitioners producing a corrected certificate issued by the Registrar, respondents 2 to 8 are directed to give effect to the consequential expunge of the name of the father from their official records and databases.
3. The Registry is directed not to mention the names of the petitioners in the cause title of the judgment while uploading it to the official site. However, the registry is also directed to give a sufficient number of certified copies of the judgment along with the details of the petitioners in a separate sealed cover if a copy application is filed for that purpose by the petitioners for production before the respondents.
[X v. Registrar of Births and Deaths, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 3770, decided on 19-07-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Atul Sohan, Sreeja Sohan K., K.V.Sohan, Vinai John, and R.Reji (Attingal) and V.K.Sunil, Advocates, for the Petitioners;
The Registrar of Births and Deaths, Pathanamthitta Municipality (Party-In-Person), for the Respondents;
ASG Manu S., Advocate, for the Union of India;
SC Jose Joseph, Advocate, for the Income Tax Department, Kerala;
SC Deepu Lal Mohan, Advocate, for the Kerala Election Commission;
P.K. Ravindranatha Menon (Sr.).