The Goa Assembly has passed an amendment to an existing law on individuals changing their names, making it mandatory for them to follow the “proper procedure”. The Goa Change of Name and Surname (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to amend the existing The Goa Change of Name and Surname Act, 1990.
The existing law was brought to ensure that names that had Portuguese spellings and pronunciations were corrected when translated to English. The amendment passed by the Assembly seeks to make fraudulent changes in names a criminal offence.
Why the amendment
The amendment seeks to arrest an apparent trend among “outsiders” to fraudulently adopt Goan names in order to take advantage of government schemes meant for Goans. Congress MLA Alex Reginald has said there are “complaints of people misusing the law and also changing their names to avail Portuguese passport and also to benefit in land deals in Goa”.
This, Reginald has said, was becoming a “social issue” — and “stringent measures” were needed “to protect the interests, future and stability of the Goan way of life”.
Reginald said in the Assembly that data received under the RTI Act showed that in less than three years, there were 4,197 cases in which “small advertorials” were issued claiming names had been changed through the courts. “We need answers on who these are… Are they Goans? If not, why are they changing their names to Goan surnames, with Catholic or Hindu titles?” he said.
Former Chief Minister Churchill Alemao said: “Others cannot come and become Goan with a mere name change”. Law Minister Nilesh Cabral said the government had opened an initial inquiry into “the manner in which these name changes are taking place”. Announcements for the change of names in local newspapers in the last 15 days were being scanned, and the list would be sent to police “to probe the reasons why these men and women changed their names”, he said.
What the Bill says
According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons, “The Bill seeks to amend Section 3 of The Goa Change of Name and Surname Act, 1990 (Goa Act No. 8 of 1990), so as to lay down a proper procedure for changing the name and surname of a person. The Bill also seeks to insert a new Section 3A in the said Act so as to prescribe penalty for not following the procedure as laid down under the law for such change of name and surname.”
The new procedure
Those desirous of changing their names/surnames in specified cases (wrong or improper entry; correction of spelling; unpleasant or distasteful name/surname; erroneously written name/surname) “shall apply to the Registrar of respective jurisdiction in which his birth is recorded in the prescribed form along with an affidavit for correction of name or surname or both mentioning therein details like name, date of birth, parents’ name, name of the spouse, residential address, etc and submit documents in which version of existing name or surname is mentioned”.
After receiving the application, the Registrar will publish a notice mentioning the applicant’s change of name, and affix it on the notice board of his office. The Registrar shall also publish the notice in an official gazette and two local dailies or newspapers having wide circulation, within 30 days from the date of the notice.
As per the Bill, an individual who changes his/her name, surname or both, or publishes any notice or advertisement for the same without following the laid down procedure, “shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than seven days, but not exceed three months”.
The amendment proposes to make offences under the changed law cognisable, which means that an individual can be arrested without a warrant.