Interim Staff

The Supreme Court of India upheld the decision to disqualify a member of a village council in the north-western Indian state of Haryana for violating the region’s two-child norm, even though the norm is not legally binding. The court claimed it is “in the national interest to check population growth” and that included the use of “legislative disincentives.” This disqualified Zile Singh from sitting on the village council.

“I am amazed and shocked to learn that our honourable Supreme Court holds that ‘it is in the national interest to check the alarming growth of India’s population through legislative disincentives,'” said Bishop Percival Fernandez, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

“If this is true,” he continued, “then we have to redefine individual freedom and fundamental rights. Would it then be wrong to introduce legislation that children born to parents who already have two children have no right to live? This, too, would be in line with the ‘national interest to check population growth.'”

As the case was tried, civil rights and women’s groups joined in opposition to the two-child norm. Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, said politicians should stop promoting “population controls” and focus their attention on improving living standards by providing health care, nutrition programs and education.

Earlier this year, Gurcharan Das, an editorial writer for the Times of India, criticized proposals that sought to turn a suggested two-child target into law. For him, “a coercive population control policy is morally wrong.”

Fernandez said the decision “begins a process that will lead to denying all fundamental rights and individual freedom to the citizens of our beloved country.”

In some Indian states, government workers are denied benefits and promotions for having more than two children and some regions limit education and social assistance to larger families.