new delhi court

Right to change one’s name is protected under the Constitution: High Court of New Delhi

The High Court of New Delhi declared that the right to change one’s name is a fundamental right and is protected under the Constitution. The single bench consisting of J. Jayant Nath held that the name of an individual is very personal, and she/he must be allowed to express it as they wish, in the case of Rayaan Chawla v. University of Delhi & Anr. [W.P.(C) 6813/2020, CM APPL. Nos. 23586/2020 & 26340/2020].

The petitioner, a 20 year old student of Hindu College (affiliated to respondent), pursuing his 3rd year in the course of B.A.(Hons.) Philosophy was seeking for changing his name. Since his parents got divorced, having no constructive relationship with his father, the petitioner wanted to change his name from ‘Rayaan Singh’ to ‘Rayaan Chawla’, which is his mother’s maiden name. To give effect to this change, he published a declaration in two leading national dailies, effected a notice under the Gazette of India and also applied for an amendment in his Aadhar Card, declaring in all that he has changed his name. Rayaan requested the respondent for the change of name in all college records to which the respondent directed him to comply with a specific notification. Though having complied with the almost all of the conditions, a certain condition was that it was mandatory for the students seeking change of name to get their name changed in their school records first, that is, from CBSE/State Board.

Hence, the writ petition was filed wherein the petitioner argued that he should be allowed to change his name without him being expected to change is names in the previous records since the task was impossible. The respondent, relying on Tarachand Soni v. University of Delhi [W.P.(C) 1694/2019], argued that since the petitioner’s parents got divorced in 2015, he had enough time to change his name previously, also, that not adhering to this particular condition would violate the continuity and uniformity required in the educational credentials of a student. 

The HC, relying on Rohitash Institute of Elementary Education v. National Council for Teacher Education, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7532, said that the stand of the respondent is erroneous since the petitioner is being asked to do an impossible task and the maxim “Lex non cogit ad impossibiia” was stated.

The court further stated that “to have a name and to express the same in the manner he wishes, is a part of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) as well as right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It cannot be denied that the right to change a name is a protected right and the petitioner would normally be not denied the said right on technical issues”. Further, relying on Abhishek Kumar v. Union of India & Ors., 2014 SCC OnLine Del 2459, the court held that “ the issuance of revised certificates with changed name as sought by the petitioner therein would create a discrepancy and reflect a status which did not exist at the time of issuance of the certificates thereof (i.e. school leaving certificates)”, and hence, the demand of the respondent is a misplaced one.

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