- The Allahabad High Court recently observed that a person's name is an expression included under Article 19(1) Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
- It observed, that changing name, being a fundamental right cannot be curtailed by any rules which do not have “a statutory flavor”
- In India, changing name is a three-step processing involving declaration through an affidavit, publication of it in a newspaper and notification of it Official State or Central Gazette
THE PRESENT CASE
The Allahabad High Court was recently hearing a Writ Petition, wherein a student had contended that changing his name is a fundamental right which cannot be violated by the State. The student, who had already cleared his 12th Standard Board Exam from Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), was desirous of getting his name changed. Following the due process of law, his signed the name change affidavit and published the information newspapers and through a Notification in the Central Gazette.
He even managed to update his new name in government documents such as AADHAR, PAN, etc. However, when he applied for getting his name changed in his 11th and 12th standard mark sheets, CBSE denied him from doing so, citing their regulation (bylaws). CBSE's contention herein was that since the new name was not reflected in the school records, to change the name in the mark sheets would be in violation of Rules 69.1(i) and 69.1(ii) of the Examination Bylaws.
After hearing both the sides, the Allahabad High Court observed that “The individual 'name' is a facet of right of expression, which is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) read with Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) includes within its sweep all forms of expressions and name in the present world is clearly a strong expression.”It held that since changing name is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1), it can only be curtailed by due process of law using the restriction imposed under Article 19(2).
The Court admitted the Petitioner's contention that since CBSE is a Society, registered under the Societies Registration Act, its bylaws cannot be considered to have a “statutory flavor” and do not meet the criteria of being a restriction under Article 19(2) and cannot be used to curtail a person's fundamental right to change name. The Court, thus, directed CBSE to expediently undertake the process to change the name of the Petitioner in his mark sheets.
PROCEDURE FOR CHANGING NAME IN INDIA
As complicated as one may think of it, changing name of a personin India is rather easier, involving a three step process. To change his name, one has to ensure that he completes the following three steps:
- · Signing a name change affidavit,
- · Publishing the changed name in a newspaper, and
- · Notification in Official Gazette of India and/or State.
The first and the foremost step is to sign an affidavit. An affidavit is nothing but a mere declaration in a written form whereby a person confirms by an oath or affirmation which can be used in an official manner as an evidence in courts. Affidavits are the most common legal documents used for confirming almost everything, including a person's name, identity, marital status, occupation, publications, his truthfulness as witness, and even his signature or thumb impressions!
Similarly, a name change affidavit requires a person to confirm by an oath or affirmation that they are willing to change their name. It has to specifically mention the older name of the person along with the new one and specify whether such name change is for all purposes thereon or only for certain specific purposes. It is to be noted that it is mandatory to get such affidavit notarized.
Once the Affidavit is signed and the person has confirmed his intention to change their name, the next step is to make known this intention to the general public and to people having any interest in such person. The most common and convenient method is to publish it in a newspaper. Even while publishing it in a newspaper, there are a few points that must be kept in mind. One, it is always preferable to get the information published in at least on National and Local newspaper, so as to avoid any objections in the future.
Secondly, the information published in the Newspaper should specifically mention:
- Old name of the applicant
- New name of the applicant
- Father's/Husband's name
- Age of the applicant
- Number of the Affidavit for name change created prior by the applicant
- Date on which the affidavit was made
- Name of Notary who has attested the affidavit.
Even though some organizations consider a publication in newspaper sufficient evidence to believe that the person has changed their name, there are others which require a Notification in the Official Gazette. So the next step is to apply for a Notification in the Official Gazette. Now, it is up to the person's choice whether he wants to get a Notification in the Official Gazette of his State or of the Center.
A person who has ordinarily been residing in the same State where they were born and have working there itself, might prefer a Notification in the Official State Gazette. On the other hand, a person, who ordinarily resides in one State while having economic interests in other and widespread contacts throughout the country, might prefer a Notification in the Central Gazette.
While the requirements for applying for a Notification in a State Gazette differ from State to State, it is mandatory to submit the following documents to Department of Publication while applying for a Notification in the Central Gazette:
- Request letter
- Proforma notification
- Verification Certificate
- C.D format
There can be several reasons why a person would like to change their name, may it be for official purposes, or maybe they genuinely do not like or can associate themselves with their name, or even for hiding after committing a crime or a financial embezzlement! Whatever the reason maybe, changing your name still remains your fundamental right, as long as it is for lawful purposes. 'Name' is not just an identity of the person which distinguishes them from a crowd, but rather it is an expression which they can enforce by moving High Courts or even the Supreme Court.