Rakvere city to continue court dispute with parents over child name

The  Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court. Source: riigikohus

The city of Rakvere has appealed to the Supreme Court to prolong a court dispute with a parent who wants to name her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Nelery. The name choice reportedly falls foul of Estonia's naming laws.

The saga has been head at the Supreme Court once already, but the court sent the case to the second-tier Tartu Circuit Court, after which Rakvere authorities decided to submit a cassation appeal back to the top court, daily newspaper Postimees writes.

"Rakvere's city government and the Ministry of the Interior decided jointly that submitting the appeal and the decision made by the Supreme Court are both necessary for adjusting the name law," a Rakvere city government spokesperson said.

The parent, named in the media as Kadri (under Estonian law, second names in pending cases are often not published - ed.), said that from the official's rationale, it could be inteprested that no points brought out in the circuit court have been agreed on, meaning while the official is stating that there is no one with the name Nelery in the world, there is in effect a girl in Rakvere with that exact first name.

Whether the cassation appeal will be taken under proceedings will be decided by the Supreme Court in the coming months, and if the appeal does not go under proceedings, Tartu's circuit court's decision will enter into force and the child's name will be entered as Nelery in the population register.

Currently, the name in the document registry is recorded as Neleri (note the spelling difference - ed.).

Circuit court - strict written language norms don't have to be followed when naming a child

The circuit court decided in January that, when naming a child, strict written language norms don't have to be followed, though best practice in language usage should be.

The court agreed with the interior ministry's position that the language law should be followed in the case of naming. However, the court doesn't agree with the ministry's interpretation that the strict written language norm applies to naming. This interpretation is not the only option, according to the court. It is important to remember that the language law has two aims, the court says - to regulate using Estonian in official conduct and protect the state language.

"In the present case, however, it is a question of the child's choice of name and not of the language used by the authorities, so it is questionable whether it is proportionate to require," the district court stated in its ruling.

In the court's view, the interpretation that the name should be subject to strict rules of written language is disproportionate and restricting the fundamental rights of parents. At the same time, there are constitutional values being weighed up. On the one hand, the protection of the Estonian language, on the other hand, the fundamental rights of parents to raise and care for their children, the right to the inviolability of family and private life as well as the general fundamental right to liberty, are all touched upon as fundamental rights.

"At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the first names of individuals have only a negligible effect on the survival of the language. The availability of Estonian-language education or Estonian-language literature has a much more significant impact," the court stated.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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