No, There Never Existed A Law That Asks Women To Change Their Surname After Marriage For Passports

14 April 2017 6:43 AM GMT
No, There Never Existed A Law That Asks Women To Change Their Surname After Marriage For Passports
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday made the following two statements with respect to passport.

  • It is not mandatory for a woman to submit her marriage certificate or divorce decree while applying for passport
  • A woman can choose whether the name in the passport should be of her mother or the father and not both parents.

However, The Logical Indian checked the instructions for filling the passport application form and found that this was never a requirement. The announcement by PM Modi was misrepresented and got widely shared as an important news piece and many media houses published it without verifying any details about the same.

On the issue of name change, the instructions by Passport Seva on the application form clearly states that, for a woman who has retained her maiden name (the name a woman is given at birth) after marriage, nothing changes. Only those who have even “marginally changed” their name, have to specify the same, irrespective of the gender of the applicant.

Testimonies of several women in social media suggest the same, at the same time many women complained of harassment from passport officers because the women didn’t change their surname.

Bombay High Court Order & MEA Stand On It

Furthermore, to enable transparency in the law on a woman’s name after her marriage, the Bombay High Court in 2011 had amended a crucial rule under the Family Courts Act to prevent a woman from being compelled to file any marriage-related proceedings only in her husband’s surname.

A woman can file proceedings either in her maiden name, her name after marriage, or any other name she may have adopted, as long as it is officially registered in the gazette.

In his statement, PM Modi also said that “women need not submit marriage/divorce certificates for passports.” The Ministry Of External Affairs has introduced modifications in the rules for issuing the Passport in December 2016 which states that

“Married applicants would not be required to provide Annexure K or any marriage certificate,” the notification reads. “The Passport application form does not require the applicant to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons. Such applicants for passports would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree.”

Only while applying for the passport of a minor, the notification says that it is mandatory to add the spouse’s name, in case it’s not already added in the past.

The Logical Indian Take

The statements made by the PM are equally applicable to a woman as well as a man as per the new passport rules. Most media houses misinterpreted the PM’s second statement and reported as if he was referring to the woman’s maiden name in the passport. They went to the extent of saying that this is something new and has not existed before. The media not only misinterpreted but also misreported the PM’s speech.

It is not the intent of The Logical Indian to demean, belittle or cast doubt on the credibility of the mentioned legacy media outlets. The media is the fourth pillar of democracy and it holds limitless influence in a vibrant democracy like India. However, when mainstream media outlets engage in popularising false or fake news stories – when the mainstream media does not take it upon itself to fact-check every bit of news story that it publishes, it can have disastrous consequences on the national debate. This is especially significant because we live in an era where WhatsApp forwards and tweets (that don’t require verification or are not bound by journalistic ethics) are getting undue traction and following. In such a time, if even reputed mainstream outlets give into the shouting matches and falsehoods of false news, it negatively affects us all.

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