To what extent, the recent Supreme Court Judgement upon Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act tries to remove gender inequality perpetuated by this law? Examine.

Published: September 18, 2017

Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act makes father the natural guardian of a Hindu Child while the mother is considered a natural guardian in absence of father. Thus mother does not hold an equal right as father in taking decisions for the child.
SC in its judgment made mothers legally eligible to be sole guardians, making consent of biological father not necessary. The judgment is being considered as landmark because:

  • The original law buttressed the patriarchal structure which goes against the constitutional provisions of equality.
  • Law had prevented women in unhappy and abusive marriages to move out for the fear of losing access to their child.
  • Women are increasingly playing more assertive roles both inside the house as well as outside. This judgment grants visibility to greater role of women at home and in contributing towards their child’s welfare
  • This judgment secures women’s rights who are in live-in about future of their child.
  • Judgment is related only to this act hence affects only Hindu women.

Judgment is one more step towards granting women their right in domestic sphere but it would benefit only few women as many are still not educationally and financially empowered to stand on their feet and take decisions for their children.
Rather than piecemeal approach of amending provisions, parliament needs to amend personal laws to bring them at par with constitutional provisions. Law commission had recommended in 135th report that both parents be made equal in matter of guardianship can be implemented by amendment to law. Personal laws need to be made gender neutral and reflective of aspirations of new society. 

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