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Githa Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India (1999) 2 SCC 228


  • Whether the mother can act as a natural guardian in case of incapacity of the father with regard to Section 6 of the Act and whether it is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution?


  • Section 6(a), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
  • Section 4(b), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
  • Section 19, Guardian and Wards Act, 1980
  • Articles 14, 15 of the Indian Constitution
  • CEDAW and Beijing Declaration’s measures to prevent discrimination.


  • The petitioner, Ms. Githa Hariharan and her husband were married and a son named Rishab was born.
  • In 1984, they jointly applied to the Reserve Bank of India for 9% relief bonds in the name of their son for Rs. 20,000/- and an intimation signed by both the parents was given that the mother would act as a natural guardian for the purpose of investment.
  • The first respondent, the bank replied to the petitioners advising them either to produce the application form signed by the father of the minor or a certificate of guardianship from a competent authority in favour of the mother. 
  • The petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and Section 19 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1980 as being violative of Article 14 and 15.
  • RBI contended that a father is the natural guardian of a legitimate son and only ‘after’ the father, the mother is the natural guardian.
  • There was another suit filed in 1991, for the custody of the child while a divorce petition was pending in the District Court of Delhi (the husband being the appellant).
  • The appellant repeatedly wrote to the petitioner asserting that he was the natural guardian of the child and no decision should be taken without his permission.
  • The petitioner in turn filed for maintenance for herself and her son. Both the appeals were jointly heard before the Supreme Court as the question of constitutionality of the above mentioned sections is common in both the cases.


  • The court said that in cases of assault or battery, one must show the unlawful intention of the defendant or his fault. 
  • It also said that the wrongdoer is liable for all the consequences that result due to his act even if it is unforeseeable in nature.  
  • The court held in favor of the plaintiff concluding the act to be unlawful and it happened in a classroom and not in a playground where the kick could have reasonably been foreseen. 
  • Vosburg was awarded $2500 in compensatory damages.