Kerala High Court asks CBSE to consider grievance about board exam application forms

Kerala High Court
The Hindu

Synopsis: Recently, the Kerala High Court found a peculiar feature in the names of many in Kerala; the absence of a definite ‘name.’

The Kerala High Court, recently noted that many citizens in Kerala do not have definite surnames or last names, thereby, directing the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to consider representation against the new format adopted by CBSE for board examination applications.

The judgement was delivered in a petition filed by a father whose child is in 9th class on November 17, by a single-judge Bench of Justice N Nagaresh, with the exception of the new format for application adopted by the CBSE requiring students to ‘preferably extend’ abbreviations of surnames.

The court noted that in Kerala, the characteristic of not having surnames or expanding initials is prevalent, although many deliberately leave out their last names or family names as these are symbolic of caste status.

In addition, after their primary names, many use initials, parents’ names, relatives or unrelated last names, the court said.

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“As the abbreviations together with names are not clear indicatives of the surname/father’s name/mother’s name/family name, the abbreviations are used as an integral part of their names without their abbreviations,” the court noted.

The board provided guidance to schools in a circular to ensure that the extended name of the student/mother/father/guardian should be given and that there should be no abbreviations used. The directions required that all documentation such as the date of birth certificate, school records, Aadhaar, passport etc. should be identical to the data given.

The name of the son of the petitioner according to the birth certificate was Tarun A. It was the case of the petitioner that the petitioner would have to correct the name of his son in the birth register in order to comply with the directions provided by the CBSE, which is a cumbersome and time-consuming process.

Therefore, the petitioner submitted a representation describing his difficulties and proposing that the CBSE should provide an additional column demonstrating the expansion of the student/father/mother/guardian initials, in the same manner that passports and school leaving certificates provide names.

After the CBSE counsel told the Court that the directions were advisory in nature, the Court found that it was reasonable not to issue any order. It was mentioned that the guidelines were only to ensure that students did not have difficulty while visiting abroad later on.

Citizens in Kerala are forced to include the extension of abbreviations attached to their names in the ‘surname’ column because of the lack of choices in some forms, which can further cause complications in their official transactions.

The Court clarified how many in Kerala overcome the requirement of surname expansion in official records, stating that instead of ‘surnames’ they given their ‘last names’ and initials and extended these (if abbreviated). However, this could lead to problems in official transactions, the Court has stressed.

Since the grievance presented by the petitioner is one faced in the State by many parents/students, it would be only fair and proper for the CBSE to recognise the petitioner’s representation for the good of all those facing the same question, the court ruled.

The petitioner’s grievance posed in the writ petition poses a problem facing many people in the State of Kerala.

The petitioner was defended by Senior Advocate T Sethumadhavan, Advocate Preethi PV, and MV Balagopal, and the Standing Counsel Nirmal S appeared for the CBSE.