‘Anath’ Not Stigmatic: Bombay HC Rejects PIL to Rename Orphans in Government Records

Bombay High Court LAW INSIDER

Prerna Gala

Published on: September 16, 2022 at 20:59 IST

The Bombay High Court dismissed a PIL on Thursday that sought to modify the noun used in government records for an orphan from “anath” to “swanath” or self-made, noting that the word “anath” was not stigmatized.

Courts must be aware of the Laxman Rekha within which they must operate, according to a division bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar.

“We find no reason to entertain a PIL of this nature. The Marathi, Hindi and Bengali synonyms of the English word orphan is common, i.e. anath. The word Anath has been used since ages.”

“Not only that, orphanages are also called Anathashram. We don’t agree that the word Anath when used to describe a person who has unfortunately lost both parents attached any stigma.”

The PIL was deemed motivated by the bench because the petitioner’s organisation likewise went by the name “Swanath.”

Advocate Uday Warunjikar for the petitioner Swanath Foundation stated at the hearing on Thursday that the term “Anath” reflects the child’s weakness, which affects their dignity.

“It means that every person has the inalienable right to live with dignified life without discrimination. The word “anath” reflects a needy, helpless, and deprived child. However, the word Swanath is a self-reliant and confident child,” the plea adds.

The bench instead advised the petitioner to seek other relief and questioned if the word carried any stigma.

The bench went on to say that renaming doesn’t help.

“This is come from ages. It’s universally accepted. What is the social stigma? Changing names doesn’t help. This name is merely meant for the description of a category. We are not lawmakers and can’t issue a mandamus like this.”

“While considering a PIL, court must be alive of the Laxman Rekha within which it must function. This is not a case where we should push ourselves to the last line of the Lakshman Rekha,” the bench added.

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