changing name after marriage: is it mandatory?
My friend's brother got married to his wife in 2012 under the Special Marriage Act in Kolkata. Though her brother doesn't belong to any reserved category she belongs to the Scheduled Castes category. His wife has not changed her surname after their marriage. However, recently, with elections in the offing, there are certain officers and representatives of the election commission who, while carrying out a routine inspection, came to their house and insisted that his wife change her surname if she is to retain her voting right. The local authorities at the ration office have also insisted on the same. He was wondering whether such a change is mandatory after marriage and if so, then how should one go about it officially? Also, will she still retain the benefits of her reservation after that?
The change of last name after marriage is not legally obligatory on any woman, at least in India. Married women can continue with their maiden name for all purposes as it’s her right to do so. The change of last name by bringing the name of the husband or his surname is done just to identify herself as his wife nothing more.
The Court in India have always held right to a Indian women to use their maiden middle name and sur name even after their marriage.
More importantly, if she used her maiden surname while enrolling herslef in the concerned electrol roll, she need not change her maiden surname for what so ever reason.
In an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal there may be a presumption that the child has the caste of the father. This presumption may be stronger in the case where in the inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the husband belongs to a forward caste. But by no means the presumption is conclusive or irrebuttable and it is open to the child of such marriage to lead evidence to show that he/she was brought up by the mother who belonged to the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe. By virtue of being the son of a forward caste father he did not have any advantageous start in life but on the contrary suffered the deprivations, indignities, humilities and handicaps like any other member of the community to which his/her mother belonged. Additionally, that he was always treated a member of the community to which her mother belonged not only by that community but by people outside the community as well.
This was held in by the Apex Court in Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika Vs State of Gujarat & Others.
Under the Indian legal system, there is no law, including acts, ordnances or any other governmental notification, that requires a woman to mandatorily change her surname post marriage. I am surprised that even government officials have insisted on that when they ought to have known better!On the contrary, there are provisions under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the legislation that you have taken recourse to for solemnizing your marriage, that allows a woman to retain her religion as well as her caste (and hence all benefits associated with the same) even after marriage. In fact, the very reason the Act was brought into being was to facilitate inter-religious and inter-caste marriages. You can point out the provisions to the nearest office of the commission as well as the ration office and in case they refuse to listen to reason and the law, you can file a writ petition under Article 226 before the Calcutta High Court seeking writs of mandamus (specific directions) issued against both the commission and the ration office.
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