Allahabad HC: Changing name is fundamental right

The Allahabad High Court (HC) has ruled that the right to keep a name of choice or change the name according to personal preference, comes within the ambit of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The action of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is in the teeth of relevant regulations under the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act,1921. (Wikimedia)

The action of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is in the teeth of relevant regulations under the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act,1921. (Wikimedia)

Fundamental right

The Allahabad High Court (HC) has ruled that the right to keep a name of choice or change the name according to personal preference, comes within the ambit of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Allowing a writ petition filed by one Sameer Rao, Justice Ajay Bhanot quashed an order dated December 24, 2020, passed by the regional secretary, Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, regional office, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, by which the Parishad had rejected an application for change of name.

The HC directed the respondents to allow the application of the petitioner to change his name from Shahnawaz to Md. Sameer Rao and to issue fresh high school (Class 10) and intermediate (Class 12) certificates incorporating the said change.

The petitioner had challenged the Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education's rejection of his application to get his name changed in the High School and Intermediate examination certificates.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The restrictions in the said regulation are arbitrary and infringe the fundamental right to choose and change own name. (Wikimedia)</p></div>

The restrictions in the said regulation are arbitrary and infringe the fundamental right to choose and change own name. (Wikimedia)

Fundamental right

The Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad is also known as Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education.

In its judgment, the HC ruled that the right to keep a name of choice or change the name according to personal preference comes within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression), Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution of India.

The HC observed, "The authorities arbitrarily rejected the application for change of name and misdirected themselves in law. The action of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is in the teeth of relevant regulations under the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act,1921."

As per facts, the name of the petitioner was recorded as Shahnawaz in the 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.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The action of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is in the teeth of relevant regulations under the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act,1921. (Wikimedia)</p></div>
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Thereafter, he applied for a change of his name from Shahnawaz to Md. Sameer Rao to the Board in 2020.

The said application was declined by the impugned order (order under challenge) dated December 24, 2020.

It was the primary stand of the education board that relevant regulations contemplate that an application for change of name has to be filed within three years from when the candidate appeared in the examination.

However, in the instant case, the application was made seven years and five months after the petitioner appeared for the High School and Intermediate examinations respectively.

The court did not accept the stand of the board and said, "The restrictions contained in regulation 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 the said regulation are arbitrary and infringe the fundamental right to choose and change own name."

At the outset, the court opined that the human name is an inalienable part of an individual life.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The action of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is in the teeth of relevant regulations under the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act,1921. (Wikimedia)</p></div>
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The court added that the importance of an individual 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 HC 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 symbolising renouncement of past associations and take a new name manifesting the quest for a higher cause. (IANS/NS)

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