The Union Government briefed the Bombay High Court on Thursday that an unwed mother has to declare how she conceived if she applies for the child’s passport.
The reply came in the wake to a query by a division bench of Justices VM Kanade and Anuja Prabhudessai which heard a petition from Sania Akram, a woman challenging the passport authority’s refusal to include her step father’s name in the document as recorded in her school/college documents. Also, the officer refused to alternately include the name of her mother, who has permanent custody of Sania. Now, the significant question about unwed mothers applying for her child’s passport popped up while the HC was parting with the matter.
In her reply, advocate Purnima Bhatia who appeared on behalf of the foreign ministry confirmed that an unwed mother must file an affidavit stating ‘how she has conceived’ and if ‘she was raped’. She further added that the necessary details are specifically listed in the passport document.
Earlier, Sania’s petition claimed that her biological father abandoned her soon after birth and since then his name has become a ‘stigma’. Although the passport manual was produced in court, but Bhatia declined to hand it over to the petitioner noting that it is a classified document.
As per Altaf Khan, Sania’s advocate, the passport authority was merely relying on standing instructions as cited in the manual which state that only the biological father’s name should be listed in the document. “The Passport Act is silent on the matter. It relates to minors. I am a major now. My fundamental right to travel to seek education is at stake”, said Khan.
However, the judges refused to term the passport manual as a classified document and are in the nature of internal instructions. According to the court “These are just guidelines and do not have the force of law”.
Sania’s plea is scheduled to be heard on November 13 along with a similar case.