CBSE can’t refuse to change names after declaring results: Supreme Court [Read Judgement]

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In an important judgment on name ordained identity of individuals, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the CBSE cannot impose a blanket ban on effecting changes in the names of students, parents and other particulars in the certificates or mark sheets after declaration of results of board examinations.

This judgment was delivered by a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari on 22 petitions relating to correction/change in name/surname or date of birth of candidates or their parents in the CBSE certificates. Various High Courts had given conflicting rulings on this issue – some permitting effecting of the changes while others refusing.
There could be several bona fide reasons for which an individual needs a new name. CBSE should facilitate the process, rather than being cussed about it. The SC has rightly made them see the light.
Times View

Writing the 132-page judgment, Justice Khanwilkar said that the right to change name is a constituent element of freedom of expression of identity.

“Afterall, in the social sphere, an individual is not only recognized by how an individual identifies oneself but also by how his/her official records identify him/her. For, in every public transaction of an individual, official records introduce the person by his/her name and other relevant particulars.”

The bench termed the CBSE certificates as an important public document often relied for establishing one’s identity and directed the Board to take immediate steps to amend its bye-laws to allow candidates to change their or parents’ names in the certificate even after declaration of results.

The SC said, “Identity, therefore, is an amalgam of various internal and external including acquired characteristics of an individual and name can be regarded as one of the foremost indicators of identity. And therefore, an individual must be in complete control of her name and law must enable her to retain as well as to exercise such control freely ‘for all times’. Such control would inevitably include the aspiration of an individual to be recognized by a different name for a just cause.”

Justices Khanwilkar, Gavai and Murari gave two important examples to give credence to its decision in forcing the CBSE to entertain requests for change of name and other particulars even after declaration of results, which under the CBSE bye-laws had been permitted only on the orders of the court prior to declaration of results. Post-declaration of results, only the correction of discrepancies between the school records and CBSE records were permitted.

The SC said the Board’s obligation to take additional administrative burden for entertaining requests for change of names and other details post declaration of results is no doubt onerous but the propensity of a student losing career opportunities due to inaccurate certificate is unparalleled.

“Illustratively, a juvenile accused of being in conflict with the law or a victim of sexual abuse whose identity gets compromised due to lapses by media or the investigative body, despite there being complete legal protection for the same, may consider changing the name to seek rehabilitation in the society in exercise of her right to be forgotten. If the Board, in such a case, refuses to change the name, the student would be compelled to live with the scars of the past,” the bench said.

“In such circumstances, the avowed public interest in securing rehabilitation of affected persons would overwhelm the Board’s interest in securing administrative efficiency. In fact, it would be against the human dignity of the student, the protection whereof is the highest duty of all concerned. A Board dealing with maintenance of educational standards cannot arrogate to itself the power to impact the identity of students who enrol with it. The right to control one’s identity must remain with the individual, subject, of course, to reasonable restrictions,” it said.

Highlighting the importance of CBSE certificates in seeking admissions to higher courses and applying for jobs, the bench said, “an inaccuracy or denial of change could be fatal to a student’s future prospects and all these concerns cannot be brushed aside in the name of administrative exigencies.” It said CBSE cannot refuse request for change of name when UIDAI entertains such request for Aadhar Cards and ministry of external affairs for passports.

Read Judgement here:

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