Punjab & Haryana HC allows plea for incorporating biological mother's name in passport [Read Judgment]

Punjab & Haryana HC allows plea for incorporating biological mother's name in passport [Read Judgment]

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has accepted a student's prayer seeking the incorporation of her deceased biological mother's name in her passport and made a direction to the Passport Authority to effect the same.

The Punjab & Haryana High Court recently directed the Regional Passport Officer, Chandigarh to take steps to incorporate the name of a petitioner's deceased biological mother in her passport. The order was passed by Justice BS Walia (Divya Nagpal v. Union of India).

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The petition had been preferred by one, Divya, whose mother had an unfortunate early demise when Divya was a child. Her father remarried shortly thereafter.

In her plea, Divya submitted that all of her documents, including her Aadhaar and her educational certificates, recorded her biological mother's name as 'mother', whereas her stepmother was shown as her mother in her passport alone.

Divya sought that her stepmother's name in her passport be replaced with her biological mother's to dispel any possible confusion between her various records during her studies and travels abroad. To this end, she applied to the Passport Authorities to effect a change, to no avail.

"...in March 2020, the petitioner was granted admission in MBA Course in Olin Business School, Saint Louis on scholarship by the Washington University (US) ... with a view to avoid any difficulty during her studies abroad as well as while travelling, the petitioner requested (the Passport Authority) to substitute her biological mothers name ... instead of her step mother’s name", Justice Walia's judgment narrates.

The Passport Authority, however, contended that such a change ought to have been effected when the petitioner attained the age of majority, and not thereafter. They relied on a clause of the Passport Manual to argue in this manner.

"... When the child applies for passport for the first time after he becomes major, he has the option to retain the name of biological parent or step-parent, as recorded in his Birth Certificate/educational certificate ..."

The clause states

Citing the Madras High Court's ruling in R Gayatri v State of Madras, Divya's counsels, Advocate SS Behl, and Advocate Harpreet Kaur argued that the guidelines of the Passport Manual could not be used to deny the petitioner a change in details, especially as the details were entered correctly in other documents.

"...the Hon’ble Madras High Court on the basis of fair play, equity and prudence and in order to prevent the educational prospect of the petitioner therein from being affected, directed the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai to receive passport application of the petitioner and to process the same and issue passport by using the name of stepfather of the petitioner in the manner known to law and in accordance with law..." Justice Walia records the Petitioner's submissions

The Court accepted the petitioner's submissions and allowed Divya's plea, holding that the Passport Manual's directions were "mere guidelines".

"...In view of the Passport Manual being mere guidelines, name of the petitioner’s biological mother being mentioned in the (documents)... as also that no prejudice would be caused to either of the parties in the eventuality the name of the petitioner’s biological mother is mentioned in her passport, besides the same would prevent confusion in the identification of the petitioner...the Regional Passport Officer, Chandigarh is directed to process the request of the petitioner and issue a fresh passport to her by reflecting her biological mother’s name", Justice Walia ruled.

Accordingly, the Court directed the Passport Authority to effect the substitution of Divya's stepmother's name with her biological mother's name and issue a fresh passport within ten days.

Divya Nagpal v. Union of India and Anr. - Judgment dated July 16, 2020.pdf

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