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Indian court grants mother custody of child without father's consent

NEW DELHI: India’s top court ruled Monday that an unwed mother could be the sole legal guardian of her child without naming the father or getting his consent, a verdict hailed by activists.

The single mother had approached the Supreme Court in New Delhi after two other courts told her that she needed to reveal the identity of the biological father and required his consent in order to be the legal guardian of her child.

On Monday, she argued that she had been raising her five-year-old without any help from the father, who she said was married and not aware of the child’s existence, and did not wish to name him to avoid her child being “marred by any controversy regarding his paternity”.

Judges Vikramjit Sen and Abhay Manohar Sapre finally ruled that “in this scenario, the interest of the child would be best served by immediately appointing the appellant (the mother) as the guardian”.

“Furthermore, it is also pressed to the fore that her own fundamental right to privacy will be violated if she is compelled to disclose the name and particulars of the father of her child,” the court order said.

The current law in India makes it mandatory to get the consent of a child’s father when there is a petition for guardianship.

Activists and lawyers applauded the latest ruling, describing it as a step forward for women’s rights.

“Great, needed to start bringing Guardianship laws in line with equality,” Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court lawyer and women’s rights activist, posted on Twitter after the judgement. -AFP

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