A woman can continue to use her ex-husband’s name and surname even after divorce, the Bombay high court (HC) ruled last week.
“There is no law which prevents a woman from using her name adopted after marriage – containing the name and surname of her husband – even after a decree of divorce is passed by a competent court,” said the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice AK Menon.
“In fact, it is the right of the petitioner [a divorced woman] to use any name, including the name of her divorced husband,” the bench said while striking down a communication issued by the passport office at Pune to a 67-year-old divorcee to produce a no-objection certificate (NOC) from her ex-husband for renewing her passport carrying his surname.
The woman had obtained a passport issued in the name and surname of her husband in April 2002, which was valid till 2012. On March 6, 2012, she filed an application for renewing her passport and disclosed her changed marital status as divorced.
On May 22, 2012, she received a communication from the passport office asking her to get an NOC from her ex-husband for using his surname. “Since you are a divorcee and are using your ex-husband’s surname, you are requested to submit an NOC from him to use it,” the letter stated.
The woman filed a petition challenging the validity of the certificate. She contended the communication not only humiliated her, but also violated her fundamental rights. She said the Passport Act, 1967, nowhere mandates that a divorcee needs to obtain an NOC from her ex-husband to continue to use his name and the passport cannot be denied on such a flimsy ground.
The HC accepted her contentions and directed the passport office to decide within a month the application for renewing her passport without insisting on an NOC from her ex-husband.