Nabadwip, July 8: The Nabdwip Municipality has refused to issue a birth certificate to a young couple for their newborn son because they did not affix a surname to his name in the prescribed application.
The couple Pratap Chandra Das and Moushumi Debnath, who live in Sarkarpara in Nabadwip, claimed that since a surname associated with caste and religion, and they do not practice either, they decided to avoid affixing a surname for their newborn as it creates divisions in society.
Even though there is no legal binding on people by the Government to use surname being a secular country, and many civic bodies in Bengal issue birth certificate without a surname, the Nabadwip Municipality chairman Biman Krishna Saha, a senior Trinamul Congress leader, refused to be convinced claiming the issue as ‘unconventional’ and advised the couple to submit a government circular in support of their demand or drop their surname first and appeal afresh.
Father of the child Pratap said, “The decision of the Nabadwip Municipality is very shocking. We as parents decided to bring up our son as a human being beyond any caste and religious identity as a mark of protest of such social division. But, the chairman of the municipality failed to realize it”.
Pratap has decided to take it as a battle for his right and written a letter to the chairman to apprise him of the legal provision under which he refused to issue the birth certificate.
On June 14 Moushumi delivered a male baby in Nabadwip. On June 25, Pratap submitted an application in the prescribed format for the birth certificate of his newborn ‘Anish Sankalpa’ without putting any surname. On June 26, he was told that the birth certificate cannot be issued without a surname.
“I met chairman Biman Krishna Saha who refused to issue the certificate without a surname. I humbly reminded him no government agency can compel us to write anything associated with religion. But, he refused to listen and advised to produce legal reference or no objection letter or any circular issued by the appropriate authority in support of my claim”, said Pratap, who is secretary of Nabadwip unit of Bharatiya Bigyan O Yuktibadi Samity.
Pratap and Moushumi claimed that the denial of the birth certificate for not writing the surname is a violation of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which provides Freedom of practice and propagation of religion.
“We do not believe in the philosophy of caste and religion, which are amply indicated by a surname. We practice no religion and our views are supported by the provision of Article 25”, Pratap said.
A lawyer practicing at Calcutta High Court said, “The couple can rightly be issued with the certificate without any surname for their son. The Mumbai High court delivering judgment in September 2014 on a case between Ranjeet Mohite, Kishore Nazare and Subhash Ranawareduring Vs Government of Maharashtra had ruled that the government cannot force anyone to list his religion since a person can claim not to belong to any religion. The surname is associated with religion and can be avoided”.
“In a similar case (WP 18488/2016) between G.Balakrishnan Vs State of Tamilnadu, the Madras High Court had upheld the rights of parents for not to be compelled to declare their religion/caste while seeking admission to an educational institution”, the lawyer added.
An officer of the Nadia district administration said, “The state or its agencies have no locus-standi to decide the name or surname of a child which rather falls under the legal right of his/her natural or legal guardian which is also protected by Article 12 of the Constitution of India”.
But, chairman Biman Krishna Saha insisted, “The appeal is unconventional which I never heard before. Moreover, there is no prescribed format to issue such a certificate. Nevertheless, I am ready to issue it if the applicant produces any legal reference or order from appropriate authority”.
When Saha was reminded of many precedences of such a birth certificate which is a common affair across the country, he appeared to be nonchalant. “I am not concerned what other Municipalities have done”, he said adding that couple should have dropped their surname first submitting an appeal for the birth certificate of their son.