The Law Commission on Friday recommended that divorced parents be given joint custody of minor children, a move aimed at doing away with gender bias in India’s custody laws that favour the father.
“Neither the father nor the mother of a minor can, as of a right, claim to be appointed by the court as the guardian unless such an appointment is for the welfare of the minor,” the commission, which advises the government on legal issues, said in a report to the law ministry.
It proposed two draft bills to amend the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 that prefer the father as the natural guardian. The commission said that despite a Supreme Court judgment, the mother is preferred as the natural guardian while the father is still alive only under exceptional circumstances.
“This is required to be changed to fulfil the principles of equality enshrined in article 14 of the Constitution,” the panel said.
Amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act will also cover visitation arrangements.
They will be relevant for all custody proceedings bar any personal laws that may apply, the law commission’s report said.
The recommendations assume significance as the idea of shared parenting is still new to custody jurisprudence in India. The panel said the amendments are necessary to bring the law in tune with modern social considerations.