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Court ruling on retaining maiden surname

Calcutta High Court on Monday reiterated a woman’s right to use her father’s surname and address, ruling that a marriage or a divorce could not rob her of the “privileges”.

Pankaj Mandal, of West Midnapore, who lost the race for a job to Anindita Ray, had petitioned the court against the use of her father’s name, despite being married to Debasis Chakraborty.

Alleging that she had divulged wrong information while applying for the job, Mandal pleaded with the court to cancel her appointment.

But Justice Amitava Lala dismissed Mandal’s petition after hearing out both sides. A woman could continue using her maiden surname and her father’s address as long as she wished, the judge ordered.

Reiterating the existing rules, he said a daughter’s privileges did not end with her marriage. “She can use any name she wants to and can stay anywhere she wishes to,” observed Justice Lala in a verdict that was roundly applauded by the West Bengal Women’s Commission.

“Though rules allow women this privilege, most women in our city and state do not know they enjoy this right,” commission member Bharati Mutsuddi said on Monday, after learning of Justice Lala’s verdict. “We need as many reminders of this vital rule as possible,” she added.

Both Ray — then married to Debasis Chakraborty — and Mandal had applied for a post in 1999 after the Lalgarh gram panchayat (in West Midnapore) sought applications from residents in and around the area for a secretarial job. After a written test and an interview in May 2000, Ray landed the job.

Mandal, who was placed second on the list of those selected provisionally, petitioned the high court, raising two points of protest about Ray suppressing information.

First, Ray’s husband’s residence was at Garbeta, in West Midnapore, and not Lalgarh, and so she could not apply for the job at all. Second, her surname should have been Chakraborty. The court should, therefore, overrule the selection process and hand him the job, maintained Mandal.

Ray, who is now divorced, was staying at her father’s place in Lalgarh when she applied for the job. She told the court she had been “honest” in her application.

Justice Lala concluded that she had done no wrong. “The Constitution allows the judiciary to protect women, still oppressed in this country,” he reasoned. “If the law has to be stretched to a certain extent to help them in their fight, then so be it,” he added, while delivering the verdict.

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