Child’s passport can carry step-father’s name without step-father being declared the legal guardian

High Court of Punjab and Haryana : Deciding upon an issue as to whether the passport of child can carry the name of his/her step-father without the step-father being declared his/her legal guardian by the court, a Bench comprising of Rakesh Kumar Jain, J., held that since the step-father of the petitioner is his legal guardian for all intents and purposes hence there is no need to obtain an order from the court for his appointment as legal guardian until and unless the capacity of the step-father,  acting as a legal guardian, is challenged by the biological father, especially in a case where the custody is handed over by the court to the mother.

The petitioner had applied for passport with his step-father’s name since his biological father had severed all ties post the dissolution of marriage with the petitioner’s mother and since then the step-father has been recorded as his father in various government records like ration card, Adhaar Card, PAN card and school certificates etc. The  counsel for the petitioner contended that  since elder sister of the petitioner already had got a passport in which Ujjal Singh has been mentioned as her father hence it would create a lot of confusion especially when his real elder sister is already holding the passport bearing the name of his step-father.

However the respondent/passport authorities denied issuance of passport to the petitioner relying on the relying on Para 4.4 of Chapter 8 of the Passport Manual Act, 2010, according to which the name of the step-father cannot be mentioned in the passport even on re-marriage after divorce because relationship of the child to his biological parents subsists, even after divorce by parents. However, name of the step-father can be mentioned after he is appointed by the Court as a legal guardian.

The Court relying on  Shalu Nigam v. The Regional Passport Officer, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 3023  and Prerna Katia v. Regional Passport Office Chandigarh, CWP No.26805 of 2015, observed that the since the step-father has been taking care of the family and his name is recorded as a father of petitioner in various government record therefore, the step-father of the petitioner is his legal guardian for all intents and purposes for which there is no need to obtain an order from the Court for his appointment as legal guardian. Thus, the Court overruled the objection of the passport authorities and issued direction to issue passport to the petitioner mentioning his step-father’s name. [Mohit v. Union of India,  2016 SCC OnLine P&H 10157, decided on November 16th, 2016]

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