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Piece of paper holds more value than person in ‘flesh & blood’: HC asks CBSE to correct records

Prema Evelyn Dcruz moved HC after request to CBSE to correct her date of birth was turned down. Her year of birth was wrongly entered as 1983 instead of 1981.

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has ordered that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) correct the date of birth of a petitioner in her Class X marksheet, nearly two decades after it was issued.

On Friday, the court noted with regret how a piece of paper holds more value in today’s world than a person in ‘flesh and blood’ and the treatment meted out to the poor.

Prema Evelyn Dcruz had moved the high court after her request to the CBSE to correct her date of birth in official records was turned down. The case came before Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, who has now allowed the change of date in the documents.

Interestingly, Justice Singh began his order with an excerpt from the biographical movie ‘Kaagaz’, a satire on the plight of poor people who are made to run from pillar to post in the quest of official documents.

In the biopic released last year, a common man was declared dead in official documents. He then sought to prove that he was alive during the course of the movie.

Even though the movie’s story was almost 50 years old, the court noted that the situation as to official documents has not improved and requires serious introspection

Born in Chennai in 1981, Prema was home-schooled throughout her life. She appeared for her tenth standard examinations under the category of private students. 

During submission of her documents, the agent incorrectly indicated her year of birth as 1983 instead of 1981. For almost 20 years, Prema’s certificate carried an incorrect date of birth.

Just three years ago, the Municipal Corporation of Chennai digitised all birth documents. Prema could then access her birth certificate which reflected her correct date of birth. She then used the document to update several crucial documents such as her Aadhaar, voter ID card etc.

However, when she approached the CBSE to correct her date of birth, the Board did not take action.

The high court has now allowed the appeal, noting that the CBSE bye-laws did not anticipate a situation as the present case. The petitioner cannot be denied her remedy because they do not contemplate such a situation, it said.

The court noted that where different documents note different dates of birth, it has the potential to adversely affect the petitioner and cause ‘serious injustice’. It ordered the CBSE to make necessary corrections to her date of birth. 

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CBSE’s contentions

The CBSE said that the application was only a way to change Prema’s date of birth in official documents. There was an ‘extraordinary delay’ which she could not explain, it said.

The Board contended that beyond a period of 10 years, documents had been “weeded out” according to rules. Moreover, it said that the upper limit in law of two years to the time during which such an objection could be raised had already expired.

Prema did not have any vested right to demand such a change in date without limitation, it said, adding that the date change should not be allowed considering previous decisions. 

The petitioner argued that the CBSE never disputed the authenticity of the birth certificate, which was relied upon by various authorities like the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to correct their records.

She cited a number of cases where the Board was directed to correct the date on the certificate, using the birth certificate as proof. 

In one such case, the top court has held that in case of such documents, steps must be taken to ensure accuracy of information. “There is no reason for the CBSE to not take notice of public documents,” the SC noted, adding that the Board was bound to correct the date considering a ‘public document’, which is presumed to be accurate. 

Akshat Jain is a student at the National Law University, Delhi, and an intern with ThePrint.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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