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The petitioner, who had been issued a High School Examination certificate and an Intermediate Examination certificate in 2013 and 2015 respectively, changed his name in the year 2020 and filed an application for name change before the UP Board of High School and Intermediate Education, which rejected the same.
The Allahabad High Court recently allowed a writ petition filed against the dismissal of an application to change the petitioner's name in the High School and Intermediate examination certificates.
The bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot observed that "the intimacy of human life and a person’s name is undeniable and 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".
The petitioner's application for name change had been rejected by the UP Board of High School and Intermediate Education citing Regulation 40 (क) and Regulation 40 (ग) of the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate Education Act, 1921.
However, the high court, invoked the doctrine of ‘reading down’ while passing the order.
"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," held the court.
Court stressed that it was clear that the petitioner’s new name gave him a higher sense of self-worth, and it was within the scope of Regulation 40(ख).
It is to be noted that Regulation 40 (क) contemplates that an application for change of name can be filed only within three years from 31st of 16 March of the year when the candidate appeared in the examination, and Regulation 40 (ग) prohibits change of name in such a way that the same discloses the religion of the applicant.
The petitioner, whose name had been recorded as “Shahnawaz” in the Board of High School Examination certificate, and the Intermediate Examination certificate, changed his name to “Md Sameer Rao” in the year 2020.
When the petitioner made an application for change of his name before the UP Board of High School and Intermediate Education, it was rejected on the grounds of delay and bar of limitation under Regulation 7 framed under the Intermediate Education Act, 1921. Moreover, Regulation 40 (क) and Regulation 40 (ग) of the Act were also cited as a reason.
The high court noted that firstly, Regulation 7, which pertains to correction of clerical errors in the name or the other particulars of a candidate entered in the High School or Intermediate certificates issued by the Board, was not applicable in the present case; and secondly, y Regulation 40 of Chapter XII of the Act should have been interpreted in a permissive manner to realize the fundamental rights of the petitioner.
"The scope of the provision cannot be constricted by a pedantic construction which will undermine the fundamental rights," said the court.
Court emphasised that "the most ancient stirrings of human thought evidenced in the Rigveda exalted keeping of names as a primal act of human life". "The importance of an individual’s name is experienced in all aspects of life including social interfaces and commercial transactions," added the court.
Court further referred to the authorities on the point- Among others, the Allahabad High Court's decision in Sumpurnanand vs. State of U.P. and others, Apex Court's judgment in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corpn, Kerala High Court's decision in Kashish Gupta Vs. Central Board of Secondary Education and others, Delhi High Court's ruling in Rayaan Chawla Vs. University of Delhi and another and United Nations Human Rights Committee's observations in Coeriel and Aurik v. The Netherlands.
"Clearly the importance of a name is an universal human value and a cherished right across jurisdictions. Commonality of human values and consensus of judicial authorities often becomes the basis of universal human rights," said the court.
In light of the same, court opined that 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," court held.
Accordingly, court set aside the impugned order and ordered the respondents to allow the application of the petitioner to change his name from “Shahnawaz” to “Md Sameer Rao” and accordingly issue fresh High School and Intermediate certificates incorporating the said change.
Moreover, court directed the petitioner to surrender all his public documents of identity to the competent authorities for change of name.
Before parting with the matter, court asked the Secretary, Ministry of Home, Government of India and the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, to create appropriate legal and administrative frameworks to ensure that both Governments work in concert to achieve the end of making identity related identity documents consistent and removing anomalies therein.
"Congruency in all identity related documents is an essential requirement of public interest and national security. In case a person is allowed to carry identification documents with separate names it would lead to confusion in identity and possibility of mischief. The State has to proactively prevent any such possibility of mischief or misuse," said the court.
Case Title: Md Sameer Rao v State of UP and two other with connected matter
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