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Indian Court Says Mothers, Fathers Equal

February 20, 1999| From Reuters

NEW DELHI — India's Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, has recognized a child's mother as a guardian equal to the father under Indian law, officials said Friday.

The ruling Thursday came in response to a petition from Githa Hariharan, an English-language writer, and her husband, who challenged the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act framed in 1956, saying it discriminated against women.

The couple went to the country's highest court after the central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, refused to accept an application to issue bonds in the name of their teenage son because the application was not signed by the father.

"Be it noted . . . that gender equality is one of the basic principles of [the Indian] Constitution," said one of the two concurring judgments issued in the case.

India is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, having accepted and ratified it in June 1993, the court said.

"It is an axiomatic truth that both the mother and father of a minor child are duty bound to take due care of the person and the property of their child, and thus having due regard to the meaning attributed to the word 'guardian,' both the parents ought to be treated as guardians of the minor," Judge U.C. Banerjee said.

The ruling implies a precedent from the highest court of the land.

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