The Delhi High Court in a judgment dated May 19 held that every person has a right to change his/her surname and is entitled to a respectable identity in society. It further held that the Right to Identity is an intrinsic part of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A Single Bench of Justice Mini Pushkarna observed, “The denial by the CBSE for carrying out the requisite change in the certificates of the petitioners, is totally unjustified. It is to be noted that the petitioners have every right to have an identity which gives them an honourable and respectable identity in the society. If the petitioners have suffered any disadvantage on account of their surname and have faced social prejudices due to the same, they are certainly entitled to change of their identity that gives respectability to the petitioners in the societal structure. … The Right to Identity is an intrinsic part of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Bench said that if a person wants to change his or her surname, so as not to be identified with any particular caste that may be a cause of prejudice to such person in any manner, the same is permissible.

Advocate T. Sudhakar appeared for the petitioners while Advocates Ashok Kumar, Arun Panwar, and Utkarsh Singh appeared for the respondents.

In this case, a plea was filed by two brothers seeking quashing of the letter issued by the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) by which it refused to change the name of their father in their 10th and 12th Board certificates. The father of the petitioners decided to change his surname from ‘Mochi’ to ‘Nayak’ due to caste atrocities suffered by him on a daily basis and thus, published a note in the newspaper informing about the change of his name from ‘Lakshman Mochi’ to ‘Lakshman Nayak’ for all future purposes.

Such a change in his surname was published in the Gazette of India and was thereafter reflected in various public documents. In this regard, the petitioners applied for a change of their father’s name in the 10th and 12th Certificates as issued by the CBSE but the same was rejected due to which they approached the court.

The High Court in view of the above facts noted, “There is no denying the fact that Right to Life includes within its ambit, the Right to Live with Dignity, which includes not to be tied down by any casteism that a person may face on account of the caste to which such person belongs."

The Court directed the CBSE to carry out the requisite changes in the 10th and 12th Certificates of the petitioners to reflect the name of their father as ‘Lakshman Nayak’ instead of ‘Lakshman Mochi’.

“The CBSE is at liberty to requisition any documents that may be required for the purposes of carrying out the aforesaid rectification, including perusing the original documents in favour of the father of the petitioners viz. Adhaar Card, PAN Card and Identity Card as issued by the Election Commission of India”, said the Court.

The Court further clarified that the change in the surname of the petitioners in the CBSE Certificates shall entail only a change in the name of their father and that the said change shall not entail a change of caste of the petitioners, for the petitioners to take advantage of any reservation or any other benefit that may be available to the ‘Nayak’ caste/surname.

Accordingly, the Court quashed the letter issued by the CBSE.

Cause Title- Sadanand and Anr. v. Central Board of Secondary Education and Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2023:DHC:4093)

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