By Prarthana Mitra
In a significant amendment to its rules for a PAN card application, the Income Tax (IT) Department will now allow applicants who were raised by single mothers to furnish their mothers’ names in the application. Earlier, it was mandatory to produce the father’s name, irrespective of the circumstances. This, coupled with the earlier decision to let applicants choose which parent’s name to include on the card, is a sign of social progress.
Towards a progressive idea of parenthood
Putting an end to this internalised misogyny and regressive mandate, Section 114 of the Income Tax Rules (1962), which provides for the manner in which an application for PAN shall be made, introduced the changes to forms 49A (for Indian citizens/entities) and 49AA (for foreign citizens/entities) in a notification dated November 19, 2018.
This allows individual taxpayers the flexibility to furnish their mother’s name instead of their father’s in order to procure a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card, which remains an indispensable document for income holders in this country.
The new forms, which will be available from December 5, will ask the applicant whether their mother is a single parent and if they wish to use her name in the application, instead of the deceased or estranged father. Unfortunately, this step comes with a significant caveat — the father’s name remains a mandatory requirement except in the case of a single mother.
An earlier notification, despite making provision of the father’s name mandatory, had allowed applicants to choose which parent’s name would appear on the PAN card itself.
What led up to this?
Earlier in September, the IT Department floated a draft notification proposing amendments to Section 114 of the IT Act, to lift the mandate on producing the father’s name even for those with raised by a single parent.
The tax department has, in the recent past, received several petitions seeking relaxation of the rules regarding the father’s name in section 6 of form 49A, as the application process had posed several difficulties for those with single mothers for a parent. Years of complaints and grievances from young Indians have culminated in this potentially historic development.
Last year, Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi struck down the obligation to mention the name of the father in students’ examination mark sheets. In her appeal, she drew attention to the evolving nature of matrimony in India, with an increasing number of divorces and single mothers doing the work for two.
Why is this socially and culturally significant?
In a patriarchal society, the name of the father is often awarded great importance, to an extent that it has come to be accepted as a mark of identity, a measure of one’s caste and social status, and the source of social validation. Even when it comes to filing official paperwork, we are expected to furnish our fathers’ names in almost every conceivable document, beginning with examination forms, driving licences, and even while filing for medical insurance and tax claims.
The gendered connotations of coalescing one’s identity with that of our ancestral patriarchs are no longer lost on the new generation of taxpayers. More importantly, there are plenty of Indians who hail from estranged families raised by hardworking single mothers who don’t appreciate the father’s claim to guardianship over the mother’s.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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