Supreme Court- Ex-wife can’t use husband’s surname after divorce

Supreme_CourtA Mumbai resident, for whom his surname seems to be really something worth fighting a battle even in Supreme Court as he fought a  long legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court to stop his ex-wife from using his surname. An assistant police inspector with the Mumbai police, however finally won the battle as the apex court dismissed an application by his former wife to continue using her ex-husband’s name after their divorce. As the apex court stated, “We are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order (passed by the Bombay High Court and family court).

There is no law governing the issue, stated advocate R T Lalwani, who represented the police inspector in the high court and family court. The SC order can be cited as a precedent for any man who objects to his former wife whom he has divorced from continuing to use his surname. A woman acquires her matrimonial surname by virtue of her marriage. When the marriage is dissolved, the man definitely has the right to take recourse to the law to restrain his former wife from using his name.

This judgement however, contrasts vastly with another judgment been given earlier this year, as additional solicitor-general Darius Khambata had given a legal opinion in another case that a divorced woman could use her former husband’s name by stating that, “The wife has a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India (right to life) to use any name including her married name notwithstanding the fact that her marriage has been dissolved,” Khambata had submitted in a case where the passport office had refused to renew the passport of a divorced Pune woman in her former married surname. But a striking difference of that case with this case is that in that case the man did not have any objection to his former wife using his surname.

In the present case, the police officer had married his wife in 1995. It was his second marriage after his first wife died. He filed for divorce in 1997 and a family court dissolved the marriage in 2006. When his wife claimed for more maintenance, the police officer moved an application in order to prevent her from using his surname anymore as he claimed that she was misusing his name.

The family court in 2009 already passed an injunction to stop her using her former husband’s name. By using the name/surname (of the husband), there is always a possibility of people being misled that she still is his wife, when in fact she is not, as it was observed the family court judge. A year later, the high court in February 2010 agreed and said that the ex-wife cannot use the husband’s name anywhere, including in her bank account.

His former wife then filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court seeking to challenge the HC order. Her petition contended that the family court did not have jurisdiction to give an order in the matter of surname. There is no rule governing (the issue of) using the surname of the ex-husband after divorce, she argued, adding, Surname is not a trademark which can be patented by an individual. However, the apex court dismissed her petition.

Supreme Court- Ex-wife can’t use husband’s surname after divorce

Report by Indrani Chowdury