Several media outlets yesterday reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said women will not need to change their names in passports after marriage from now on. No sooner this was announced, that women took to Twitter to point out it has been the case for many years.
Many women said they've travelled on valid passports without changing their names after marriage.
What Modi actually said was: "There is an important change in passport rules. Now women won't have to submit a marriage or a divorce certificate. It will be discretionary whether they want to write their father's or their mother's name in their passports. The government at every level is trying to empower women."
By the important change, the PM was probably referring to the new passport rules, brought into effect in December 2016, which stated that "married applicants would not be required to provide Annexure K or any marriage certificate. The Passport application form does not require the applicant to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons. Such applicants for passports would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree."
According to the Passport Rules of 1980, the 'COLUMN 2' under 'SECTION III - COLUMN-WISE GUIDELINES FOR FILLING UP THE APPLICATION FORM' states: "If you have ever changed your name, please indicate the previous name in full. This will be applicable to a person who has even marginally changed the name or a lady who has changed her name/surname subsequent to the marriage. If there is no change in name at all, kindly write: Not applicable."
Which means that it was never mandatory to change the name in the passport after marriage.
The new rules — wherein either the woman's father's or mother's name will suffice — will also enable single parents to apply for passports for their children.
In its instruction for filling of passport application and supplementary form, it is clearly stated:
"If you have ever changed your name, put a cross in the 'Yes' box and provide the details in Column 2 of the Supplementary Form. This will be applicable to an applicant who has even marginally changed the name or a female who has changed her name or surname after marriage. If you have not changed your name ever, put a cross in the 'No' box."