Kerala High Court rules Right to Express one’s name as one wishes a Fundamental Right

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Kerala High Court hearing a writ petition on 4th May 2020, ruled that expression of one’s name in the manner as one wishes to is a fundamental right as under Art.19(1)(a) and Art. 21 of the Constitution.

Facts of the case

In the instant matter, the Petitioner, Miss Kashish Gupta, applied for a change of name, in furtherance of which, the state of Kerala accepted the petitioner’s wish and effected a Gazette notification in 2017 to that effect and the same was later reflected in all her identification documents as well.

It was adduced, that by the time the process was completed, the petitioner had written her All India Secondary School Examination in 2018 and the certificate issued by the CBSE contains the petitioner’s former name since it was based on the records available with the school.

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At the request by the petitioner’s parents, the Principal forwarded an application to the respondent requesting to carry out the change of name in the CBSE records and certificates. However, it was rejected vide an email sent as a response, citing rule No. 69.2(i) of CBSE notification dated 01/02/2018 which was duly incorporated in the examination bye-laws.

The rule stated that such changes in name of the candidate will be considered provided it has been admitted by the court of law and notified in the government gazette before the publication of the result of the candidate. Rule 69(ii) also states that application for correction will be considered within 5 years of the date of declaration of results provided it is forwarded by the head of the institution. Here, the same was done within 16 months of the date of publication of results.

Findings of the court

The court noted thus:

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“Name is an expression of one’s individuality, one’s identity and one’s uniqueness. Name is the manner in which an individual expresses himself to the world at large… In Our Country, to have a name and to express the same in the manner he wishes, is certainly a part of right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) as well as a part of the right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The court also commented that the state or its instrumentalities cannot restrict this right except to the extent prescribed under Art. 19(2) or by a law which is just, fair and reasonable; and therefore, ruled that subject to the limited grounds of control and regulation of fraudulent or criminal activities or other valid causes, a bonafide claim for change of name in the records maintained by the Authorities ought to be allowed without hesitation.

Concerning the stipulation made under rule 69.1(i), the court made an interesting note on the power of interpretation available to the court. The word “and” in the rule stating that such changes will be considered provided it has been admitted by the ‘court of Law and notified in the Government Gazette before the publication of the results of the candidate’ is used as a literary conjunctive, renders the statement absurd; as both the said means are valid ways to convey to the world that there is a change of name and one need not supplement the other.

The court further also relied on Pentiah v. Mudalla Veeramallappa (AIR 1961 SC 1107) to elucidate on the court’s power to interpret the word “and” as “or” and vice versa to give effect to the intention of the framers of the rule when it’s literal use produces an unintelligible or absurd result.

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In the instant case, the gazette notification was published before the publication of results of the petitioner’s All India Secondary School Examination. Thus, the Gazette notification fulfils the mandate and CBSE were liable to correct the name in the records, immediately on receipt of application from the school.

Court’s ruling

Thus, the court directed the 2nd respondent, the regional officer, CBSE, Thiruvananthapuram to correct the name of the petitioner in the certificate within six weeks.


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