The Supreme Court on Thursday held that a woman has the right to change the surname of her child born from her late husband, The Indian Express reported.

A bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari was hearing an appeal filed by the woman against an Andhra Pradesh High Court order passed on January 24, 2014.

The High Court had directed the woman, who had re-married after the death of her first husband, to restore her minor son’s surname to the earlier one.

The court also asked the woman to mention her late husband as the natural father of the son in official records. The court added that if the woman is not able to do so, she should mention her second husband as the child’s step-father.

The Supreme Court, however, said that such a direction was “almost cruel and mindless” in terms of its possible impact on the boy’s mental health and self-esteem, Live Law reported.

“After the demise of her first husband, being the only natural guardian of the child, we fail to see how the mother can be lawfully restrained from including the child in her new family and deciding the surname of the child,” the court said.

The judges said that if the child’s surname and those of other members of his family are different, it would expose him to unnecessary questions and impede a smooth relationship between him and his parents.

“We, therefore, see nothing unusual in appellant mother, upon remarriage having given the child the surname of her husband or even giving the child in adoption to her husband,” it said.

The Supreme Court observed that a surname was not only indicative of lineage but also had a role to play in the context of social realities. “Homogeneity of surname emerges as a mode to create, sustain and display family,” it said.

The Supreme Court set aside the directions of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.