Title: SADANAND AND ANR. v. CENTRAL BOARD OF SECONDARY EDUCATION AND ORS.
Decided on: 19th May, 2023
CORAM: HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE MINI PUSHKARNA
The High Court of Delhi has ruled that a person may legally alter his or her surname in order to avoid being associated with a caste “that could pose a cause of prejudice” to that person, citing Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as its authority. The adopted caste/surname would not be eligible for any reservations or other privileges due to the name change, the court said.
Article 21 of India’s constitution guarantees everyone the right to life, which includes the right to one’s own identity. There is no doubt that the Right to Life encompasses the Right to Live with Dignity, which includes freedom from casteism and other forms of oppression. Thus, Justice Mini Pushkarna ruled on May 19 that a person has the right to alter his or her surname if doing so will prevent him or her from being associated with a cast that might lead to bias.
Facts of the Case
In this case, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had refused to alter the surname of the applicants’ father on their 10th and 12th grade board certificates, and the applicants’ two brothers had filed a petition in court disputing this decision. The CBSE Certificates they received after completing Grades 10 and 12 listed their father’s name as “Lakshman Mochi.” They said that their father, who endured daily caste discrimination, changed his last name from “Mochi” to “Nayak” and placed a notice in the press to that effect.
Courts Analysis and Decision
The court was informed that his name had been officially changed from “Lakshman Mochi” to “Lakshman Nayak” by publishing in the Gazette of India. However, the CBSE’s lawyer argued that the boys’ surname change would also result in a caste change that may be exploited. It was also argued that the boys’ request to change their father’s name was outside the scope of the required paperwork for the school. Giving the boys relief, the court said that CBSE’s refusal to make the necessary adjustment to their certificates was wholly illogical. Those who file petitions have every right to an identity that offers them an honourable and acceptable identity in society, it should be stressed. The petitioners are undoubtedly entitled to a change of identity that offers them legitimacy in the social structure if they have experienced social bias as a result of their surname and have incurred any disadvantage as a result, the court said. It was noticed that the father had previously changed his last name by publishing a notice in the Gazette, and the new last name was correctly represented in a few official papers published by government organisations.
Therefore, there is no rationale for not permitting identical adjustments to the petitioner brothers’ 10th and 12th certificates to reflect their father’s new name. However, it was made clear that for students to benefit from any reservations or other benefits available to the altered caste or surname, the change in the surname on their CBSE certificates must only apply to their father’s name and not their caste.
Judgment- click here to review the judgment
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Written by- Anushka Satwani