Mumbai: Observing that winds of change have arrived, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court recently held, children from intercaste marriages can take on their mother’s caste. The court said society must give up ‘ancient’ notions of gender discrimination and instead, treat women and men equally.  “Patriarchy is a social system that prevails in major part of India. Our society has not adopted matriarchal society, including the matrilineal system. But, now winds of change have arrived,” said a bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Pushpa Ganediwala.

The bench was seized with a plea filed by Anchal Badwaik, 19, an MBBS student, seeking to use her mother’s, and not her father’s caste.  Badwaik had petitioned the bench and obtained this landmark judgment. Relief was evident on the faces of Anchal and her mother Bharati, residents in Ganjipeth, Nagpur, after this ruling.  Anchal’s father is from a scheduled caste, while her mother belongs to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). She had submitted an application to the district caste scrutiny committee, seeking to use the caste of her mother.

However, the committee told her caste was determined by her father’s caste and ordered her to produce her father’s caste certificate and other documents in July 2017. Anchal challenged this decision before the bench led by Justice Shukre.  Considering the facts of the case, the bench said, “Our constitutional order is based on equality, justice and brotherhood. We treat males and females equally.” “So, we believe that the ancient notions of the society in this age of gender equality and prohibition against the discrimination based upon gender identity cannot be allowed to continue,” said the bench.

The judges also referred to the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court, wherein the apex court had allowed a child to use her mother’s caste. “Generally the child belongs to father’s caste. However, the child can claim the mother’s caste also, in certain cases,” the judges ruled.  This is a historic victory for Anchal and Bharati. Anchal was singlehandedly raised by her mother after her father had abandoned the family when she was a year old. He continues to be untraceable till date.

Bharati undertook various jobs to bring up her daughter, who gained admission into MBBS on merit. Her mother’s name and caste appear on every official document, in place of her father’s. So, at the time of her admission to medical college, despite her straitened circumstances, she was forced to apply in the ‘open’ category and pay full fees. This important ruling will prove to be a boon for single mothers and divorced women, legal experts said.