Asking father's details for IVF-born child harms women's 'privacy': Kerala court
The Kerala high court observed that the requirement to furnish a father’s name to register the birth or death of children conceived through the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), like IVF, affects the dignity of the single mother as well as the child.
The court also directed the state to make necessary changes in forms designed for registration of births and deaths of children born through artificial procedures.
"The right of a single parent/ unwed mother to conceive by ART having been recognised, prescriptions of forms requiring mentioning of name of father, the details of which is to be kept anonymous, is violative of their fundamental rights of privacy, liberty and dignity," the Kerala HC ruled.
The landmark ruling by the high court came on a plea by a woman, who conceived a child using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure. Challenging the norm under the Kerala Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1970, which makes it mandatory to mention the father's details, the woman said in her petition that she cannot disclose the father's name on grounds that the identity of the sperm donor is kept anonymous and the information has not been disclosed even to her. The woman also appealed to the court that the requirement violates her right of privacy, liberty and dignity.
Upon hearing the plea of the woman, the court observed that rights of a single woman to conceive through ART procedure was recognised and accepted in the country and contended that in such procedures, the identity of the sperm donor cannot be disclosed except in circumstances as may be compelled for, under law.
"It falls within the realm of the 'right of privacy'. The said right has also been recognised in the guidelines for ART clinics, with very little exceptions. Under the circumstances, there is no rhyme or reason in requiring the petitioner to provide the name of the father in the form prescribed for registration of birth and death,” the court said, according to news agency PTI.
The Kerala high court also agreed with the petitioner in her argument that leaving the column regarding the details of father as blank — and issuing certificates of birth or death by leaving the space provided therein regarding the details of the father as blank — affects the right of dignity of the mother as well as the child.
The court said while the concept of conceiving through ART was alien to India a few decades back till the first 'test tube baby' was born, "by the passage of time, evolution of techniques, change in lifestyle and personal choices recognised by the Rule of Law, appropriate modifications, additions and alterations need to be made in statutes, rules and the forms prescribed thereunder”, as it directed the government to provide appropriate forms for registration of births and deaths of children born through such procedures.
However, the court said applicants can be asked to furnish an affidavit they are single parent who conceived through the ART procedure and produce copies of medical record, to prevent misuse of such forms for settling scores in 'family feuds'.