Orphaned children entitled to reclaim their individuality, identity: Delhi HC allows plea for surname change in CBSE certificates
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Orphaned children entitled to reclaim their individuality, identity: Delhi HC allows plea for surname change in CBSE certificates

The Court has held that CBSE qualified as an instrumentality of the State and by refusing to allow the name change, it failed to act in accordance with the principle of "parens patriae".

Rintu Mariam Biju

While allowing the plea for surname change in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) certificates of two orphaned children, the Delhi High Court has held that such individuals are entitled to reclaim their individuality and identity.

The Court has held,

I am of the view that this Court, while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution, is duty-bound to correct the wrong done to the petitioners (two orphans). The petitioners, in my view, are entitled to reclaim thier individulaity and identity by insisting on inclusion in their grade-X and grade XII certificates, the name by which they wish to be known.
Delhi High Court

The High Court has held that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) qualified as an instrumentality of the State and by refusing to allow the name change, it failed to act in accordance with the principle of "parens patriae".

The above order was passed by Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher.

Factual Background

The petitioners in the matter are two orphan children between the age group of 19 and 22. They were housed and taken care of in Udayan Care Home under the directions issued by Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The petitioners were subsequently admitted to a school affiliated to the CBSE.

However, against the 'surname' column in their admission forms, the name “Udayan” was written. The petitioners having matured with age approached CBSE to delete the word “Udayan” from their respective names (as it was mentioned in their grade-X and grade-XII results respectively) and it so happened that CBSE did not concur to the same.

Aggrieved by the above, a petition was filed before the Delhi High Court.

Arguments of CBSE

CBSE, the respondent stated that a change and/or correction in name of a candidate can be brought about only by way of CBSE examination byelaws.

Further, it was pointed out that the request for correction should be made within a period of one year, commencing from the date of declaration of results and that the same had lapsed in the present case.

"..... while the petitioners have a right to seek a change in their respective names, they had lost the opportunity as they had not taken remedial steps in time, an assertion which would be apposite qua an applicant who is born and brought in a regular home."

What the Court held

The Court stated that core issue in the petitioner's plea is that the word “Udayan” be dropped from their respective names. The Court primarily opined that the issue, though narrow, was "unfamiliar terrain" as the CBSE’s Examination bye-laws did not factor in a situation where a change in name is sought by an abandoned or an orphaned child.

The Examination bye-laws, facially, seem to cater to only those children who are born and raised in regular homes, the Court observed.

Though a "grey area" existed in the matter, the answer to the present "quandary" lies in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Court held. In this regard, the Court held,

....a brief perusal of the provisions of Article 7 and 8 of the CRC would have, to my mind, provided a clue that every child has a right to bear a name and via her or his name preserve her or his identity and individuality. The expression “parents” in Article 7(1) of the CRC, in the context of the circumstances in which the petitioners are placed, could only mean “parens patriae”. The expression “parens patriae”, in the given situation, would fit the CBSE (an instrumentality of the State) and, in this case, where the CBSE has failed to act, it would imply the court.

Delhi High Court order

Thus, the Court opined that taking Articles 7 and 8 of CRC into consideration, the CBSE should have ideally accorded the necessary relief to the petitioners even though the particular aspect pertaining to abandoned children was not envisaged in the Examination bye-laws.

The Court further stated that the error, which occurred at the time of filling of petitioners admission admission forms perhaps, had to do more "with the practicality than any mala fide intent.".

On the point of CBSE's lack on pro activeness in the matter, the Court held,

"The fact that the CBSE has chosen to take a more unimaginative path is rather befuddling given the fact that it is one of the premier bodies in the country that is mandated by law to work in the best interest of children."

On the above grounds, the High Court directed CBSE that the word “Udayan” be dropped from the petitioners' respective names. In order to facilitate the process, the Court directed the petitioners to surrender their grade-X and grade-XII certificates along with their respective mark sheets so that new certificates could be issued in its place.

Advocate Arvind Kumar Gupta appeared on behalf of the petitioners and Advocate Atul Kumar appeared for CBSE.

[Read Judgment here]

Delhi HC CBSE order.pdf
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