31 May 2023 5:08 AM GMT
Stressing that the intimacy of human life and a person’s name is undeniable, the Allahabad High Court last week said that the fundamental right to keep or change a name is vested in every citizen by virtue of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.The bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot observed thus while allowing a writ petition filed by one Sameer Rao challenging the action...
Stressing that the intimacy of human life and a person’s name is undeniable, the Allahabad High Court last week said that the fundamental right to keep or change a name is vested in every citizen by virtue of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot observed thus while allowing a writ petition filed by one Sameer Rao challenging the action of the UP Board of High School and Intermediate Education rejecting the application filed by the petitioner praying to get his name changed in the High School and Intermediate examination certificates.
The Court found that the action of the authorities was arbitrary in nature which violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
With this, the Court directed the UP Education Board to allow the petitioner's application to change his name from “Shahnawaz” to “Md Sameer Rao” and to accordingly issue fresh High School and Intermediate certificates incorporating the said change.
Importantly, the Court Secretary Ministry of Home, Government of India and the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh to work in concert to create appropriate legal and administrative frameworks for making identity-related identity documents consistent and removing anomalies therein.
The case in brief
The name of the petitioner was recorded as “Shahnawaz” in the Board of High School Examination certificate, and the Intermediate Examination certificate by the Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad issued in 2013 and 2015 respectively. In September-October 2020, he publicly disclosed his name change from “Shahnawaz” to “Md Sameer Rao”.
Thereafter, he applied for a change of his name from “Shahnawaz” to “Md Sameer Rao” to the respondent Board in the year 2020. The said application was declined by the impugned order.
It was the primary stand of the Education Board of the State that Regulation 40 (क) of the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act, 1921 contemplates that an application for change of name has to be filed within three years from 31st of 16 March of the year when the candidate appeared in the examination, however, in the instant case, the application was made 7 years and 5 months after the petitioner sat for the High School and Intermediate examinations respectively.
On the other hand, the Counsel for the petitioner argued that the right to keep the name is relatable to the fundamental rights of a citizen guaranteed under Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India and hence, the relevant Regulations have to be interpreted in light of the holdings of the constitutional courts to uphold the fundamental rights of the petitioner.
High Court's observations
At the outset, the Court opined that the human name is an inalienable part of an individual’s life, and an indispensable tool for the human race to enter into social groups and thrive as a race. The Court added that the importance of an individual’s name is experienced in all aspects of life including social interfaces and that the power and glory of the human name transcends time and is not fenced by boundaries.
The Court also observed that change of name has its roots in ancient customs of various societies wherein priestly class in different religious persuasions made it imperative for the seeker to drop the birth name symbolizing renouncement of past associations, and take a new name manifesting the quest for a higher cause.
Significantly, the Court also observed that the right to keep a name of choice or change the name according to personal preference comes within the mighty sweep of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
In this regard, the Court referred to various rulings of the Supreme Court as well as of High Courts wherein the right to a name was brought within the scope of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India by the courts of Law.
[The Court cited Kerala HC's ruling in the case of Kashish Gupta Vs. Central Board of Secondary Education and others 2020, Delhi High Court's order in Rayaan Chawla Vs. University of Delhi and another 2020 and Supreme Court's Judgment in the case of Jigya Yadav Vs. CBSE LL 2021 SC 264.]
Further, referring to Regulation 40 (क) of the 1921 Act, the Court said that a narrow approach or a rigid construction of the limitation period of three years under Regulation 40 (क) will inroad upon the fundamental rights of the petitioner vested by Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Importantly, the Court also found faults with Regulation 40 (ग) of the 1921 Act, which prohibits change of name in such a way that the same discloses the religion of the applicant. This provision also provides that a name change application pursuant to religious conversion or change of caste or change of name after marriage is not liable to be entertained.
Taking note of this provision, the Court observed that at times, a change of name takes place pursuant to a change of caste or religion and hence, refusal to change names in the educational records of a person on the ground that his name discloses his religion, infringes the fundamental right to profess and practice a religion of one’s choice guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
Further, the Court also noted that for the purpose of change of name, the students appearing in different Boards across the country comprise one class and since the CBSE bye-laws do not contain any restrictions as are imposed in the Regulations of the U.P. Intermediate Education Act, 1921, the Court said, the students who appear in the UP Board are treated deferentially and discriminated against the candidates who appear in the CBSE Board, as regards their right to change of name which constitutes a violation of the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Against this backdrop, the HC read down Regulation 40 (ग) by holding thus:
"The restrictions contained in Regulation 40 (ग) are disproportionate and in nature of prohibitions and fail the test of reasonable restrictions on fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The restrictions in Regulation 40 (ग) are arbitrary and infringe the fundamental right to choose and change own’s name vested by virtue of Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India."
Consequently, directing the UP Education Board to allow the petitioner's application, the Court also stressed the need to amend the legal framework in such a way as to enable changes to be made to all documents of identity issued by various authorities like Aadhar cards, PAN cards, Ration cards, Driving Licences, Passport, Voter I.D. card, pursuant to change in name made in the High School or Intermediate education certificates issued by the educational Boards.
Also read: Human Being’s Right To Choose Sex Or Gender One Of Most Basic Aspects Of Self Determination, Dignity And Freedom: Rajasthan High Court
'Name Is An Intrinsic Element Of Identity': Supreme Court Issues Guidelines For Recording Corrections & Changes In CBSE Certificates
Right To Change Name Is A Facet Of Fundamental Right Under Article 19(1) (a) Of Constitution Of India: Allahabad High Court
For the petitioner: Advocate Hritudhwaj Pratap Sahi
For the state: Additional Chief Standing I. P. Srivastava, Advocates Gaurav Mahajan, Rajesh Tripathi
Case title - Md Sameer Rao vs. State Of U.P. And 2 Others [WRIT - C No. - 3671 of 2022]
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (AB) 170
Click Here to Read/Download Order