CITATION: AIR 1999 2 SCC 228
BENCH: Anand CJI, Srinivasan J, Banerjee J
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 17 February 1999
PETITIONER: Mrs. Githa Hariharan & Anr
RESPONDENT: Reserve Bank of India & Anr
Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, dealt with the Provision that who is the Natural guardian of a child.
And this case is related to Section 6 (a) of 1956 which dealt with the provision that the father is the natural guardian of the person and the separate property of his minor children, and after him is the mother. the issue of this case was that the term “after” used in the section was discriminatory against women as it was considered that the mother was given a second preference as to the father over her own+ children.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The Petitioner was married and had a son in 1984. The Petitioner applied for RBI Relief bonds in the name of her son, a minor at the time of application and she signed off as his guardian.
A few days later, RBI rejected the application and asked the petitioner to produce an application signed off by the natural guardian i.e., the child’s father, or in an alternative, RBI asked her to provide a certificate of guardianship declaring her as the natural.
The respondent gave the reasoning behind this rejection, which was that Section 6 (a) of The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 does not allow the mother to be a natural guardian if the father is alive and as the child's father is alive, only he can apply for the bonds. After this, the petitioner decided to take this to the Supreme Court as she thought this provision was discriminatory and needed correction.
▪ The constitutional validity of Section 6 (a) of The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 was challenged which says the father is the natural guardian of a boy or an unmarried girl and after him, the mother will hold guardianship.
▪ The Petitioner invoked Article 14 and Article 15 which were being discriminated against.
SECTION 6 (A)
Section 6 (a) of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956, mentions that the father and “after” him, the mother are said to be the natural guardian of the son and unmarried daughter. The mother has the custody of a minor who has not completed the age of five years.
ARGUMENTS BY PETITIONER
The petitioner argued that the respondent’s recommendation was arbitrary in nature because it was discriminatory against the woman and that it violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian.
It also opposed the basic concept of justice under Article 32 of the Constitution. They also disputed the constitutionality of Section 6(a) of the 1956 Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act.
According to her, Section 6 (a) of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 discriminates against women and places them at a disadvantage when it comes to guardianship rights pertaining to their own children.
The Fundamental Rights hold an important position in the constitution of India and they cannot be infringed and right to equality is provided by Article 14 which talks about equality before the law and equal protection of law and Article 15 which ensures Prohibition of discrimination on grounds only of religion, sex, race, caste or place of birth.
The Supreme court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 6 (a) of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, but, while interpreting the word “after” in the mentioned section it held that both mother and father are natural guardians of a minor Hindu child. The Mother is not the natural guardian only after the death of the father as that would be discriminatory and also against the welfare of the child. As a result, the Supreme Court once more accorded the issue of gender equality the utmost importance.
This case is significant because it established for the first time that a natural guardian as defined under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 can either be a father or a mother, and whoever is capable of taking care of the child and has a sincere interest in that child's welfare and that need not necessarily be the father.
It was ruled that a minor Hindu child's mother and father are both natural guardians and that it would be discriminatory to say that the mother becomes a guardian only after the death of the father and go against the legislative intent of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.
● Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HGMA), 1956
● Guardian and Wards Act, 1890
This article is written by Simran Kumar of Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College.