Petition to change Rani Lakshmibai’s surname dismissed

Bombay High Court: In an interesting case, a bench comprising of A.S. Oka and A.S. Gadkari, dismissed a petition where the petitioner wanted the Court to decide the disputed question as to what was the surname of Rani Lakshmibai. In the present case, the petitioner, who claimed to be a freelance journalist and an author of a book on Rani Lakshmibai, contended that when Lakshmibai died her surname was Newalkar and that she was known as Mrs Lakshmibai Newalkar. He claimed that he had not seen or found any contemporaneous document which suggested that Rani Lakshmibai’s surname was Jhansiwale. However, it was true that her adopted son had to changed his surname from Newalkar to Jhansiwale post 1857. He further argued that the Pune Municipal Corporation had displayed her surname below her statue in Pune as “Jhansiwale”. The petitioner addressed an email to the Commissioner of Pune Municipal Corporation protesting against the change of her name  to ‘Jhansewale” after her death which was presented before the Court.

The Pune Municipal Corporation had stated that they were in possession of no records except that the statue came in existence in 1957, therefore, the Corporation was submitting to the orders of this Court. The Court after listening to the arguments of the petitioner, observed that under Article 226 of the Constitution, it was not a fit case to go into the disputed questions of fact in relation to the issue of the correct surname of Rani Lakshmibai, as writ jurisdiction was not a proper remedy to decide the said issue. Declining to entertain the petition, the Court stated that other remedies, if any, available to the petitioner are kept open. Vivek Dilip Tambe vs. State of Maharashtra, 2014 SCC OnLine Bom 1668decided on October 28, 2014

One comment

  • The above Writ Petition No 5982 of 2013 was dismissed by the Hon'ble
    High Court but does it uphold justice?
    Vivek Dilip Tambe is a Paternal Descendant of Rani Lakshmi Bai (His
    first ground of Prayer), therefore his right to life with dignity
    (Article 21); does include the honor and pride of his ancestors. The
    state violates his right to life with dignity (which by a broader
    interpretation of article 21 has been considered a fundamental right)
    by misinforming about his ancestors. Therefore, invoking writ
    jurisdiction under 226 (which protects all rights under Chapter 3)
    praying Mandamus was a right way ahead. Only, if respondents had
    disputed what he has stated in his prayer then it would have become a
    disputed question of fact. The Plaque at the site of the Statue has
    names like Raja Gangadhar Rao Jhansi and Maharani Lakshmibai Saheb
    Jhansiwale. Did the husband and the wife have different surnames?
    As PMC and the State have said that they do not have any records
    therefore there is no dispute and that is precisely the reason why the
    respondents submit to the orders of the Court. Also, the High Court is
    not precluded from entering upon a decision on question of fact raised
    by the petition (State of Orissa V. Miss Binapani Dei (Dr), (1967) 2
    SCR 625. In other words there is no rule that the High Court will not
    try issues of fact in writ petition (Om Prakash Vs. State of Haryana,
    (1971); 3 SCC 277.
    Whether Article 226 is the correct remedy was settled by the order
    dated 12 August, 2013 by one bench of the High Court which had
    considered it as Public Interest Litigation and subsequently by
    another bench which proceeded on the earlier conclusion and went ahead
    by issuing notices to the Respondents on 12 September, 2013. These
    orders were not challenged by the Petitioner. As there is no pecuniary
    benefit being sought, to my mind it should have been ideally converted
    into a PIL. Also, in my opinion people have a right of not being
    misinformed by the State? Article 51A casts duties on the citizens but
    isn't there a corresponding duty on the State?

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