In a recent order, the Supreme Court has made certain significant observations which expand the traditional meaning of family.
"Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships", the Court observed, while holding that atypical family units are also entitled to the equal protection of the law.
A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna made these observations in a judgment delivered on August 16(but which was uploaded a few days ago), while granting the relief of maternity leave to a Central Government employee regardless of the fact that she had availed child care leave for the children of her husband from his earlier marriage.
The top court made the observation in a verdict while holding that a working woman cannot be denied her statutory right to maternity leave for her biological child only because her husband has two children from a previous marriage and she had availed the leave to take care of one of them.
The judgment authored by Justice Chandrachud made certain notable observations regarding "atypical" family units which are also entitled to equal protection of the law as under :
"The predominant understanding of the concept of a "family" both in the law and in society is that it consists of a single, unchanging unit with a mother and a father (who remain constant over time) and their children. This assumption ignores both, the many circumstances which may lead to a change in one‟s familial structure, and the fact that many families do not conform to this expectation to begin with. Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships. A household may be a single-parent household for any number of reasons, including the death of a spouse, separation, or divorce. Similarly, the guardians and caretakers (who traditionally occupy the roles of the "mother" and the "father") of children may change with remarriage, adoption, or fostering. These manifestations of love and of families may not be typical but they are as real as their traditional counterparts. Such atypical manifestations of the family unit are equally deserving not only of protection under law but also of the benefits available under social welfare legislation".