The Supreme Court asked the Centre to respond to a plea to delete certain provisions of family laws that allow exclusive custody of children to one parent after a marital separation. The petition, filed by Sulochana Rani, sought reforms to these laws and raised concerns about children going without the benefits of shared parenting.
It listed the provisions in various family laws that discriminated over the custodial rights of separated parents solely on the basis of their gender. The family laws lacked a child-centric approach based on the idea of shared parenting.
The provisions in question include Sections 6(a) and 7 of the Hindu Minorities and Guardianship Act, 1956. The petition contended that they give primacy to the man and the secondary status to the woman, and are, therefore, violative of the right to equality. Similarly, under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, the father is considered the guardian of the child. Only for a short period after birth — for example, five years — the mother is entitled to automatic custody. Thereafter, it is the father who is entitled to the custody of the child.