Right to Change One’s Name and The Right To Life

Current Affairs, Polity & Governance

Why in News:

The High Courts (HC) of Allahabad and Delhi have recently ruled that the right to change one’s name or surname is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Important Points:

The Allahabad HC:

  • In the case of ‘Md. Sameer Rao vs. State of UP’, the HC dealt with a petition filed against an order rejecting the petitioner’s application to change his name in his High School and Intermediate certificates.
  • The HC ruled that a person has the fundamental right to keep/change their name under Articles 19(1)(a), 21, and 14 of the Constitution.
  • The rejection of the application for a name change violated the petitioner’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21, and Article 14.
  • A name is an essential component of a person’s identity and falls within the realm of the right to privacy.
  • Having congruence in all identity-related documents is crucial to avoid confusion or mischief.

The Delhi HC:

  • In the case of ‘Sadanand & Anr. vs CBSE & Ors’, two brothers filed a plea before the Delhi HC.
  • The HC ruled that the right to identity is an intrinsic part of the Right to Life under Article 21.
  • Denying the change of surname to the brothers by the CBSE was unjustified.
  • The petitioners have the right to have an identity that provides them with an honorable and respectable status in society.
  • If they face any disadvantage or social prejudices due to their surname, they are entitled to a change of their identity.

The HCs on Article 21:

  • Both the Delhi and Allahabad HC cases found a common thread of Article 21 running through their judgments.
  • The Allahabad HC emphasized that the right to keep or change one’s name according to personal preference is within the mighty sweep of the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21.
  • The court relied on the Kerala HC ruling (2020), which declared that having a name and expressing the same is a part of the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1)(a) and Article 21.
  • The Delhi HC stated that the Right to Identity is an intrinsic part of the Right to Life under Article 21.

Restrictions on the right to change names:

  • The Allahabad High Court clarified that the right to change or keep one’s name is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • The state cannot hinder the use of any name or change of name, except as prescribed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Any restrictions imposed by law on fundamental rights, including the right to change names, must be fair, just, and reasonable.
  • The principle of proportionality is crucial in determining the validity of restrictions on rights to ensure that the encroachment on the right is not disproportionate to the purpose of the law.

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