Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday made it clear that there exists no legal obligation for single mothers to disclose the name of their child’s father while registering for the child’s birth.

Justice M.S. Ramesh observed, “There are also cases where women are constrained to raise children with their own sources in view of their unwilling and unconcerned partners. It would be totally unjustifiable to insist such single or unwed mothers to compel them to declare the name of the father of the child who has chosen to abandon the child.”

The Court was hearing a petition filed by one Ms. Mathumitha Ramesh, who had given birth to a child in April last year through intrauterine fertility treatment. Being a divorcee, Ms. Ramesh had resorted to insemination with the help of a semen donor. However, the authorities had issued the child’s birth certificate with the donor’s name mentioned as the father.

Ms. Ramesh’s request for rectification of the birth certificate was also rejected by the Chief Health Officer, Trichy Municipal Corporation (Births and Deaths), who opined that while the law allowed rectification of the name, it did not allow removal of father’s name altogether.

Representing the Ms. Ramesh, Advocate Shabnam had now relied on Section 15 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 read with Rule 11 of the Tamil Nadu Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 2000. The provision empowers the Registrar of Births and Deaths to correct errors in birth certificates.

Examining the case at hand, the Court noted that an incidental issue which arose for consideration was the authority of the officials to insist on declaration of the name of the child’s father. It then noted that while the form for issuance of birth certificate did contain a column for entering the father’s name, neither the Act, nor the Rules mandate such disclosure.

The Court further opined that in cases like the one before it, the name of the child’s father cannot be disclosed, since the child was conceived through intrauterine fertility treatment. It noted that in such cases, the donor’s confidentiality needs to be protected.

It then ruled that authorities cannot insist on disclosure of the father’s name for registering a child’s birth, noting that it would be enough for the mother to specify on an affidavit that the child was born from her womb. It observed,

“As mentioned earlier, neither the Act nor the Rule mandates the disclosure of the identity of the father of the child. As such, the authorities concerned cannot insist for the name of the father when the details of the birth is registered in their books. At the most, the authorities concerned can require the mother to establish that the child was born from her womb, for which purpose, a duly sworn in affidavit of the mother would suffice.”

The Court, therefore, allowed the petition and directed the authorities to allow Ms. Ramesh to leave the column for mentioning the father’s name blank.