Court allows correction of surname due to its complexity

The First Hall of the Civil Court, on 30 April 2014, allowed a father to have his surname corrected after the Public Registry had issued marriage and birth certificate of his two sons with obvious errors.

Shaban Farag Abdel Ghany had instituted proceedings against the Director of Public Registry, after his marriage certificate had indicated the wrong surname, an error that was passed on to his two sons. 

In his application, the plaintiff held that he was born in Egypt on 28 December 1962. In 1993, he settled in Malta, married and had two children. He had registered is Egyptian birth certificate in Malta, which was correct and contained no mistakes in the spelling of his surname. The extract of his birth certificate then indicated the surname Ali, which was his grandfather’s. The correct surname is Abdel Ghany, which is the surname of his father. 

His son Joseph’s birth certificate indicated him as the father, however it erroneously wrote Shaban Farag Abd El Ghani Ali and not Shaban Abdel Ghany.  Furthermore, his wife also had errors in her name when she was indicated as the mother of the child. In fact, the certificate read ‘Patricia, wife of the said Shaban Farag Abd El Ghani Ali’, instead of ‘Patricia, wife of the said Shaban Abdel Ghany’. The same mistakes were shown on his other son Redeemer’s birth certificate.

The authorities did not have any official system to verify these details and therefore relied on what the plaintiff wrote himself

The plaintiff’s marriage certificate had similar mistakes in his name.

He complained to the Court that these mistakes do not reflect the reality and need to be corrected. Therefore, he asked the court to order the defendant department to correct the birth certificates of his sons and his marriage certificate.

The Director of Public Registry held that these errors were not his fault, since it was the plaintiff who made such declarations when he went to register his two sons, Josef and Redeemer. The defendant held that the word Ali was included by the plaintiff and not by them. Furthermore, with regard to the marriage certificate, the plaintiff had declared and signed that his name was Shaban Farag Abd El Ghani Ali. Since the plaintiff was not Maltese at the time when he married in Malta, the authorities did not have any official system to verify these details and therefore relied on what the plaintiff wrote himself. 

Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi, who delivered the judgment in the case of Shaban Farag Abdel Ghany, in his name and of his minor children Redeemer Farag Abdel Ghany and Joseph Farag Abdel Ghany –v- Direttur tar-Registru Pubbliku, held that this action was based on Articles 253 et sequitur of the Civil Code, which allows a person to ask the court to order corrections of certificate of civil acts.  

The Court held that from the evidence produced, it is clear that there was a misspelling of the plaintiff’s surname. The Court held that the defendant department was not to blame for these mistakes and therefore, should not bear the expenses of this case.  It seems that the plaintiff himself had given the wrong information. It could also have been a misunderstanding due complexity of the surname.

Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi decided to uphold Shaban Farag Abdel Ghany’s requests for corrections to the acts of birth of his children and his own marriage certificate.  The Court however, condemned the plaintiff to pay for the court costs of the case.

Dr Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates 

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