Judgement of the Day-Ms. Githa Hariharan and another v. Reserve Bank of India and another

Ms. Githa Hariharan and another v. Reserve Bank of India and another


(AIR 1999, 2 SCC 228)


Facts

Ms Githa Hariharan, wife of Dr Mohan Ram applied for bonds to be held on the name of their

minor son Rishab. She signed the application acting as the natural guardian of the child. RBI

send back the application stating that the application should either be signed by the father as he is

the natural guardian or to produce a certificate of guardianship signed in her favour by a

competent authority. RBI said that the father would be the natural guardian as per Section 6(a) of

the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HGMA),1956 as the provision stated that the father is

the natural guardian of a Hindu minor child and the mother is the guardian “after” the father.


Arguments

Ms. Hariharan challenged the constitutional validity of this provision in the Supreme Court on

grounds that it violated the right to equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian

Constitution


Decision

The Supreme Court, relying on gender equality principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution,

CEDAW and UDHR, widely interpreted the word “after” in the provision and upheld the

constitutional validity of Section 6(a) HMGA, 1956. It held that both the father and mother are

natural guardians of a minor Hindu child, and the mother cannot be said to be a natural guardian

only after the death of the father as that would not only be discriminatory but also against the

welfare of the child.

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