Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said women are free to use either parents’ name on their passports, and that any marriage-related papers will not need to be declared while applying for the document, PTI reported. While addressing an audience at the IMC Ladies Wing’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Modi said, “Women do not have to submit their marriage or divorce certificate for a passport. It will be their choice on using either their father or mother’s names in the document.”

However, Modi’s statements left most commentators confused about whether he was announcing a new set of rules or merely reiterating existing laws. Women have routinely complained about rules that require them to provide details of a husband or father on their passports, saying it is sexist and demeaning. In November 2016, an inter-ministerial panel told the Ministry of External Affairs that passports need not have details of the holder’s father, mother or spouse as such information is “irrelevant for immigration purposes either in India or abroad”. The committee had recommended changing this rule, especially as it goes against international practice.

In June, 2016, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had asked the MEA to amend rules for issuing passports and not make father’s name a mandatory requirement. Gandhi’s request had come after a single mother, Priyanka Gupta, tried to get her daughter’s passport issued without the child’s father’s name in it, after which she started a petition on

In May 2016, the Delhi High Court had ruled that it was not essential to mention the name of the father on a passport if the mother and child so desired.