IN A move that, if accepted, would require an amendment in all personal laws, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has suggested that the mother should be made the natural guardian of the child instead of the father. The ministry made the recommendation as part of its submission before the expert committee set up by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to examine issues pertaining to women married to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs).
Explaining the move, officials said that since it is the mother who bears the child, she should have first right. “With the father as the natural guardian, in the event of a divorce, the woman has to apply for child custody in court. She often ends up compromising on her maintenance or withdrawing criminal complaints in case of domestic violence so that she can have the child. Courts too have, at times, interpreted the principle of ‘best interest of the child’ as handing over custody of the child to the father because he earns more. If the mother is made the natural guardian, it is the father who will have to apply for custody,” said an official who attended the committee’s meetings.