Right to Live with Dignity Includes Not Being Tied Down by Casteism: Delhi HC

Stating that the right to live with dignity includes not being “tied down by casteism”, the Delhi High Court has directed the CBSE to comply with the request of two siblings belonging to the Scheduled Caste community to update their father’s surname, which he has changed due to social stigma, in their Class 10 and 12 certificates.

Justice Mini Pushkarna said the denial by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in carrying out the requisite change in the certificates was “totally unjustified” and if a person wanted to not to be identified with any particular caste that may be a cause of prejudice, the same is permissible.

“It is to be noted that the petitioners have every right to have an identity which gives them an honourable and respectable identity in the society.. The Right to Identity is an intrinsic part of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court said.

In response to the petition, CBSE had said the change in the surname would entail a change in the caste of the petitioners, which could be misused.

The court, however, clarified that the change in the father’s surname shall not entail a change of caste of the petitioners or allow them to take advantage of any reservation or any other benefit that might be available to the updated caste/surname.

The petitioner brothers told the court that their father decided to change his surname due to caste atrocities suffered by him on day to day basis, based on his surname.

The judge said the petitioner brothers have every right to have an “honourable and respectable” identity in society and if they have suffered any disadvantage on account of their surname, they were “certainly entitled to a change of their identity that gives respectability to the petitioners in the societal structure”.

“Therefore, the CBSE is directed forthwith to carry out the requisite changes in the 10th and 12th certificates of the petitioners to reflect the name of their father (with the changed surname),” stated the court in an order passed last month.

There is no denying the fact that the Right to Life includes, within its ambit, the Right to Live with Dignity, which includes not being tied down by any casteism that a person may face on account of the caste to which such person belongs, said the court.

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The father of the petitioners had published a note in the newspaper informing about the change of his name, which was also published in the Gazette Notification and reflected in the various public documents including Aadhaar Card and PAN Card, it was stated in their plea.

The petitioners then applied for a change of their father’s name in the 10th and 12th certificates as issued by the CBSE, but their request was rejected.

“Owing to the social stigma attached, the father of the petitioners changed his surname. Thus, in order to overcome the social stigma and the disadvantage faced by the petitioners on account of their surname, the petitioners applied for a change of their father’s name in the Class 10th and 12th Certificates as issued by the CBSE,” said the court.

“Thus, if a person wants to change his or her surname, so as not to be identified with any particular caste that may be a cause of prejudice to such person in any manner, the same is permissible,” it stated.

The court said CBSE is at liberty to requisition any documents required for carrying out the rectification of the surname.

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