The Allahabad High Court has held that every person has a fundamental right to change his/her name and that rejecting an application for the change of name on the ground of delay is arbitrary and violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

A Single Bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot observed, “Virtues of name are celebrated in verse and prose, in spiritual literature and secular texts. The importance of an individual’s name is experienced in all aspects of life including social interfaces and commercial transactions. Power and glory of the human name transcends time and is not fenced by boundaries. … rejection of the application for change of name on the ground of delay is arbitrary and transgresses the fundamental rights of the petitioner vested by virtue of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Bench also observed 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.

“Name imparts a unique identity to each human being. Every person finds fulfillment of life in their name. … The inextricable connection between an individual’s name and the person’s life inevitably becomes a subject matter of constitutional law discourse”, said the Court.

Advocate Hritudhwaj Pratap Sahi appeared for the petitioner while Additional Chief Standing Counsel I.P. Srivastava appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the Regional Secretary, Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, Regional Office, Bareilly, U.P. had rejected the application of the petitioner for a change of his name in the High School and Intermediate certificates. 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.

The petitioner publicly disclosed his name change by causing a notification to be published in the Gazette of India. A similar notification was also published in a local daily newspaper “Hindustan” having wide circulation in the area and the petitioner made an application for a change of his name from “Shahnawaz” to “Md Sameer Rao” to the respondent Board in the year 2020 but the same was declined.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “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. … 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. But it is not an absolute right and is subject to various reasonable restrictions as may be prescribed by law.”

The Court further noted that the delay by the petitioner was liable to be condoned and that his new name gives him a higher sense of self-worth which is within the scope of Regulation 40 of the U.P. Intermediate Education Act, 1921.

“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”, said the Court.

The Court, therefore, issued a writ of mandamus commanding the respondents to allow the application of the petitioner to change his name and issue fresh High School and Intermediate certificates incorporating the said change.

“Secretary, Ministry of Home, Government of India and the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, shall 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”, held the Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea and set aside the order of the Regional Secretary.

Cause Title- Md Sameer Rao v. State of U.P. and 2 Others (Neutral Citation: 2023:AHC:121065)

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