In an important decision for rights of women who re-marry, the Supreme Court today in its verdict said, "Mother can give surname of second husband to child after death of biological father. There is nothing unusual in a mother upon remarriage giving the child the surname of her husband."
The Supreme Court also said, "Including the name of the second husband as 'step-father' in documents is almost cruel and mindless, it would impact the mental health and self-esteem of the child."
The top court's verdict came on the dispute over the surname of a child between the biological mother and the biological paternal grandparents of the child. The woman had remarried after her husband died. The mother had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Andhra Pradesh High Court decision which ordered a restoration of the child's original surname. The High Court had directed that wherever the records permit, the name of the natural father shall be shown and if it is otherwise impermissible, the name of the new husband of the mother shall be mentioned as "step-father".
The verdict was given by a bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari.
The Supreme Court in its judgement said, "After the demise of her first husband, being the only natural guardian of the child we fail to see how the mother can be lawfully restrained from including the child in her new family and deciding the surname of the child."
The court also highlighted the importance of a surname for a child and said, "Name is important as a child derives his identity from it. A difference in name from his family would act as a constant reminder of the factum of adoption and expose the child to unnecessary questions hindering a smooth, natural relationship between him and his parents."
The bench also noted that in a past case (Githa Hariharan and Ors. vs. Reserve Bank of India and Ors) mother has been elevated to an equal position as the father, bolstering her right as a natural guardian of the minor child under Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Adoption Act, 1956.
Advocate Ravi Bassi who argued for the petitioner (the mother) in Supreme Court, told NDTV, "The fact that till date a mother's right to choose her child's surname was restricted by our patriarchal culture is tremendously disheartening. The Hon'ble Supreme Court's ruling is a landmark judgement for women's rights since it gives a woman the authority to choose the name/surname of her children after the death of her husband. I am pleased that this landmark decision puts an end to the pitiable situation of women who have been struggling for their rights since centuries."