Raghavan  INSC 852 (15 December 1995)
A.M. (Cj) Ahmadi A.M. (Cj) Kuldip Singh (J) Jeevan Reddy, B.P. (J) Singh N.P.
(J) Ahmad Saghir S. (J) Ahmadi, Cji :
1996 AIR 770 1996 SCC (1) 361 JT 1995 (9) 393 1995 SCALE (7)202
short but interesting question that arises for our consideration is :-
"Whether the Awards, Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma
Shri (hereinafter called "The National Awards") are
"Titles" within the meaning of Article 18(1) of the Constitution of
Before dealing with the legal aspects of the question at issue, we may briefly
set out the factual matrix of the two cases. The two petitions which have given
rise to this issue were filed in the High Courts of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh (Indore
Bench), respectively. The petitioner in T.C.(C) No.9/94, Balaji Raghavan
(hereinafter called 'Petitioner No.1') had filed O.P.No.2110/92 (hereinafter
called 'the O.P') on February
13, 1992 before the Kerala
High Court. The petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, sought,
by way of a writ of mandamus, to prevent the respondent from conferring any of
the National Awards. The petitioner in T.C.(C) No.1/95, S.P. Anand (hereinafter
called 'petitioner No.2') filed Misc. Petition No.1900//92 (hereinafter called
'the M.P.') on August 24, 1992, before the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh
High Court, praying for the same relief.
the Kerala High Court, the two contesting parties filed written submissions and
counters between September
30, 1992 and April 7, 1994. During this period, the High Court
of Kerala did not hear oral arguments or pass any interim order. However, in
the other case, a Division Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh (Indore
Bench), on August 25,
1992, through an ex-parte
order, issued notice to the respondent and also restrained it from conferring
on any person or persons any of the National Awards, until further orders. The
respondent filed T.P.(C) Nos.6 & 7 before this Court, seeking to transfer
the case and to vacate the ex- parte order of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh
dated August 25, 1992. On January 8, 1993, a Division Bench of this Court, while refusing to transfer
the case to itself, directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court to give its decision
on the application filed by the respondent for vacating the ex-parte order, on
or before January 20,
1993. On January 20, 1993, a Division Bench of the Madhya
Pradesh High Court vacated its earlier order dated August 25, 1992. Meanwhile, the respondent filed T.P.(C) No.811-812/93, by
which it sought transfer of both the O.P. and the M.P. to this Court.
On October 29, 1993, a Division Bench of this Court
directed that the matter be posted before a bench presided over by the Chief
Justice of India on January
17, 1994. On that day,
a bench of this Court presided over by the then Chief Justice issued notice in
T.P. Nos.811-812/93 and stayed further proceedings in both the petitions.
Later, on March 7, 1994, this Court transferred both the
aforesaid cases to itself.
Thereafter, on September
11, 1995, T.C.(C)
Nos.9/94 and 1/95 were posted before a Division Bench of this Court. The last
date for submission of written briefs by both sides was fixed and each side was
allotted time for oral arguments.
counsel for the petitioner No.1 and the respondent submitted their written
briefs within the stipulated time, the petitioner No.2, however, failed to do
so. The date for the hearing before this Constitution Bench was fixed for November 14, 1995. On October, 31, 1995, the petitioner No.2 was given notice of this fact.
However, he did not present himself before the Constitution Bench and no
arguments were advanced on his behalf. Subsequently, after the conclusion of
the hearing and the judgment being reserved, he sent communications dated
November 1, 1995 and November 6, 1995, which were received by the Supreme Court
on November 15, 1995 and November 21, 1995 respectively, requesting that his
petition should be delisted or else he should be given a hearing by the
Constitution Bench. It is not possible to accede to his request. A public
interest litigant cannot choose his forum. Once the case stands transferred to
the Supreme Court, he must make arrangements to present himself and advance
arguments before it. A Constitution Bench cannot be expected to fix its
schedule with a view to accommodating each and every litigant. Litigants must
conform to the time schedule fixed by the Court. Hence we have refused to
entertain his request.
would now be relevant to notice the events connected with the institution of
the National Awards. It is important to note that a policy of instituting
National Awards and Honours had been adopted even before the Constitution of
India was formally drafted. On February 13, 1948,
the Prime Minister's Committee on Honours and Awards was set up under the
Chairmanship of the Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India, Sir B.N.
Rau. It's purpose was to recommend the number and nature of civil and military
awards; the machinery for making recommendations for the granting of these
awards; the frequency with which they were to be awarded, etc. The Committee
worked on the premise that orders and decorations, carrying no title, were not
meant to be prohibited. It submitted its report on March 9, 1948 and gave
extensive suggestions in respect of each of the subjects upon which it had been
required to give its recommendations. Thereafter, in a series of meetings held
between May, 30, 1948 and October 29, 1953, the Cabinet had occasion to discuss
the nature and conditions of the proposed National Awards.
National Awards were formally instituted in January, 1954 by two Presidential
Notifications No.1- Pres./54 and No.2-Pres./54 dated January 2, 1954 which were
subsequently superseded by four fresh Notifications, viz., No.1-Pres./55,
2-Pres./55, 3-Pres./55 and 4-Pres./55 dated January 8, 1955. The purpose for
which these awards were to be given are as follows:- NAME OF THE AWARD PURPOSE
FOR WHICH IT IS GIVEN ----------------- ----------------------------- Bharat Ratna
For exceptional Service towards the advancement of art, literature &
science & in recognition of public service of the highest order.
For exceptional and distinguished service in any field including service
rendered by Govt. servants.
For distinguished service of a high order in any field including the service
rendered by Govt. servants.
For distinguished service in any field including service rendered by Govt.
aforementioned Presidential Notifications also provide that any person, without
distinction of race, occupation, position or sex, shall be eligible for these
awards and also that the decorations may be awarded posthumously.
press Note was issued by the Government of India on April 17, 1968 making it
clear that the practice of using Civilian Awards, such as, Padma Vibhushan, Padma
Bhushan and Padma Shri, as titles on letterheads, invitation cards, posters,
books, etc., is against the scheme of the Government as the awards are not
titles and their use along with the names of individuals is contrary to the
spirit of the Constitution which has abolished titles. It was also emphasised
in the press note that civilian awards should not be attached as suffixes or
prefixes to the names of the awardees to give them the appearance of titles.
the year 1969 and again in the year 1970, the late Acharya J.B. Kripalani, who
was then a Member of the Lok Sabha, moved a non-official Bill entitled 'The
Conferment of Decoration on Persons (Abolition) Bill, 1969' for their
abolition. In the draft statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the Bill,
the main points were thus stated:- a) Although Article 18 had abolished titles,
they were sought to be brought in by the back door in the form of decorations.
decorations were not always awarded according to merit, and the Government of
the day is not the best Judge of the merits or the eminence of the recipient.
These "new titles" were at first given to very few, exceptional
persons; this small stream had since become quite a flood.
Bill led to an elaborate debate in Parliament but was ultimately defeated.
9. On August 8, 1977, the institution of the National
Awards was cancelled, vide Notification No.65-Pres/77. On January 25, 1980 the Government revived these awards
by Notification No.25-Pres./80 which cancelled the earlier Notification
No.65-Pres./77 dated August
8, 1997. Since then,
the National Awards have been conferred annually on the Republic Day.
may now refer to the text of Article 18 of the Constitution which reads as follows
Abolition of titles. -(1) No title, not being a military or academic
distinction, shall be conferred by the State.
citizen of India shall accept any title from any
person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit
or trust under the State, accept without the consent of the President any title
from any foreign State.
person holding any office of profit under the State shall, without the consent
of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or
under any foreign State."
The learned counsel for petitioner No.1 pointed out that while Article 18(1)
prohibits the conferment of `titles' by the State with the exception of
military and academic distinctions, it does not define the words
"titles" and "distinction". In an effort to throw light
upon this aspect, he referred us to the legislative history of the provision. According
to him, the framers of the Constitution had intended to do away with the
practice followed by the British of conferring various 'titles' upon Indian
citizens who curried favour with them. This practice and the recipients of the
titles had earned the contempt of the people of pre-independent India and hence such pernicious practices
were proposed to be prohibited in Independent India through this provision.
According to him, viewed against this background, the word 'title' should be
given the widest possible meaning and amplitude in order to give effect to the
legislative intent. Since the only exception to this rule has been carved out
in respect of military and academic distinctions, it follows that all other
distinctions are impliedly prohibited. We were then referred to several
dictionaries to ascertain the meaning of the words "Title",
"Order", "Distinction", "Award" and
"Designation". It was sought to be demonstrated that even the
dictionary meaning of the word 'title' is wide enough to encompass all other
was further contended that the National Awards make distinctions according to
rank. They are divided into superior and inferior classes and the holders of
the Bharat Ratna have been assigned the 9th place in the Warrant of Precedence
(which indicates the rank of different dignitaries and high officials of the
State). It was pointed out that several recipients were following the practice
of appending these awards to their names, using them as titles in their
letter-heads, publications and at public functions.
practice has continued unabated despite the fact that the Government had issued
a Press Note in 1968 prohibiting such conduct. Says the learned counsel, all
these factors have resulted in the creation of a rank of persons on the basis
of recognition by the State, in the same manner as was achieved by the
conferment of nobility during the British rule. This, according to him, is
clearly violative of Article 14 read with the Preamble to the Constitution
which guarantee to every citizen, equality of status. It was also pointed out
that there are no objective guidelines for the manner in which the recipients
are to be chosen and over the years, these awards have degenerated into rewards
proffered by the powers that be i.e., the Government of the day, in great
numbers, to those who serve their political ends.
The learned Attorney General for India prefaced his arguments on behalf of the Union of India by stating that
almost every country in the world, including those with republican and
socialist constitutions, follows the practice of conferring awards for
meritorious services rendered by its citizens. The learned counsel then
referred us to several dictionaries for the meanings of "Title",
"Award", "Distinction", "Decoration" and
"Order". He then stated that, according to the ordinary and
contextual meaning in Article 18, the word "title" means a title of honour,
rank, function or office in which there is a distinctive appellation. An
appellation, according to him, is a name or title by which a person is called
or known, something which is normally prefixed or suffixed, for example, Sir,
K.C.I.E., Maharaja, Nawab, Dewan Bahadur, etc. The learned counsel submitted
that it is these appellations that appear as prefixes or suffixes which are
sought to be interdicted by Article 18(1). Since the National Awards are not
titles of nobility and are not to be used as suffixes or prefixes, they are not
prohibited by Article 18. In this regard, we were referred to the Press Note
dated April 17, 1968 issued by the Government of India.
The learned counsel further submitted that the words "not being a military
or academic distinction" in Article 18 have been used ex abundanti cautela.
Since military and academic distinctions, such as, General, Colonel, Professor,
Mahavir Chakra, B.A., etc. do carry suffixes or prefixes, the framers of the
Constitution, by way of abundant caution, expressly mentioned that they would
be exempted. It follows that distinctions which do not carry suffixes or
prefixes will not be affected by the interdiction in Article 18(1). At this
stage, the learned counsel took us through the relevant parts of the
discussions in the Constituent Assembly that led to the framing of Article
18(1) to support the aforesaid stance.
The learned Attorney General then reiterated his argument that republican
nations across the world have similar awards for recognizing meritorious
services and these National Awards are not violative of the right to equality
as enshrined in Part III of the Constitution. In this context, we were referred
to civil awards instituted and conferred by the United Kingdom, the United
States of America,
the Republic of France, the peoples Republic of China, the Republic of Canada and the former Soviet Union.
response to our query for guidelines that control the manner of selection of
the recipients of these awards, the learned Attorney General delivered to us a
copy of the communique that was sent to him from the Ministry of Home Affairs
in this regard.
Mr. Santosh Hegde, Senior counsel, responded to our request to act as amicus
curiae and advanced arguments before us. He began by stating that the fact that
these awards are being grossly misused had occasioned one of the writ
petitions. He referred us to the views of eminent authors, Mr. D.D. Basu and
Mr. H.M. Seervai on the issue at hand. Thereafter, he led us through the
relevant parts of the discussions in the Constituent Assembly before submitting
that it is clear that the Constitution does envisage a situation where
meritorious services rendered by individuals are to be recognised by the State,
through the conferment of awards. However, to avoid the criticism of creating a
separate class, it needs to be ensured that these awards are not used as
prefixes or suffixes. He concurred with the submission of the learned Attorney
General that the words "military or academic distinction" had been
used by way of abundant caution. Commenting on the misuse of these awards, he
submitted that the maximum number of awards that can be conferred should be
specified. He also felt that ordinarily, public servants and civil servants
should not be eligible for these awards, unless there are extraordinary
may now address the central issue in the case. At the outset, we may point out
that the marginal heading of Article 18, which reads as "Abolition of
Titles" is an incorrect summarization of its contents as it does not seek
to abolish titles granted in the past. Sir Ivor Jennings, the noted constitutional
lawyer, has described Article 18 as "not a right at all, but a restriction
on executive and legislative power."
From the aforementioned discussion, two views on the proper interpretation of
Article 18(1) emerge:- 1) The first, put forth by the petitioners, is that the
word 'title' in Article 18(1) is used in an expansive sense to include awards,
distinctions, orders, decorations or titles of any sort whatsoever, except
those that qualify as military or academic distinctions.
second, advanced by the learned Attorney General and Mr. Santosh Hegde, is that
what is sought to be prohibited are titles of nobility and those that carry
suffixes or prefixes, which violate the concept of equality by creating a
separate class. According to this view, the words "military or academic
distinction" were added by way of abundant caution. It was not meant to
prevent the State from honouring or recognizing meritorious or humanitarian
services rendered by citizens.
may now refer to the developments preceding the introduction of Article 18(1)
as it presently stands and the debates thereon amongst the framers of the
Constitution. The Constituent Assembly, as we all know, functioned by
constituting Committees which were expected to deliberate and take decisions on
specific issues of Constitutional law to be incorporated in the Constitution.
On January 21, 1947, three such Committees were
constituted by the Assembly, one of them being the Advisory Committee on
Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribals and Excluded Areas (hereinafter
called "The Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights").
the Assembly met at regular intervals to discuss the reports submitted by the
various Committees. On August
29, 1947, the Assembly
appointed a Drafting Committee which was to analyse the reports of these
Committees, take note of the discussions in the Assembly regarding them, and
prepare the text of a Draft Constitution. This Draft Constitution came to be
prepared during February 1948 and on November 15, 1948, the clause-by-clause discussion of
the Draft Constitution began in the Assembly. This process culminated on November 26, 1949 when the Constitution as settled by
the Constituent Assembly was adopted by it.
The provision that is now Article 18 (1) was discussed and formulated in the
report of the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights. This Committee had, in
view of its wide agenda, appointed two Sub-Committees, one on Fundamental
Rights and the other on Minorities. The former Sub-Committee was chaired by Acharya
J.B. Kripalani. On March
25, 1947, the present
Article 18(1) was discussed for the first time in the Sub-Committee on
Fundamental Rights. The agenda for the meeting was the discussion of the note
prepared by Mr. K.T. Shah on Fundamental Rights which contained five clauses
relating to the prohibition of, and restrictions on, the conferment and
acceptance of titles, honours, distinctions and privileges. Clause 3 of this
note read:- "No artificial or man-made distinction between citizens and
citizens, by way of titles, honours, privileges - whether personal or
inheritable, - shall be recognised by and enforceable under this Constitution,
or laws made there under:
that academic degrees, official titles, or popular honorifics, whether of Indian
or foreign origin, or conferment, may be permitted in so far as they create no
privileged class or heritable distinction." At the meeting, Mr. K.T. Shah
formally proposed the abolition of titles and the privileged class of title
holders. In the final report of the Sub-Committee, the relevant part of Clause
8 read as follows :
titles except those denoting an office or a profession shall be conferred by
This clause was considered by the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights on April 21, 1947. A number of influential members
expressed reservations about the abolition of titles. Mr. C. Rajagopalachari
suggested that it should be left open to the legislature to decide from time to
time whether titles are good or bad. He stated that, especially if there was a
nationalist, communist or socialist policy, and the profit motive was removed,
there would be a great necessity for creating a new motive in the form of
titles. Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Aiyar and Mr. M. Ruthnaswamy also supported the
omission of this clause. The latter stated that equality is not opposed to
distinction and even in a democracy, it must be provided. Mr. K.T. Shah,
however, urged that the conferring of titles offended against the fundamental
principle of equality sought to be enshrined in the Constitution. Mr. K.M. Panikkar,
while suggesting a half-way solution stated:- "Orders and decorations are
not prohibited. The heritable titles by the Union
undoubtedly create inequality. In the Soviet Union many encouragements are given on account of certain
national policies. What I am submitting is that we must make a clear
distinction between titles which are heritable and thereby create inequality
and titles given by governments for the purpose of rewarding merit or by recognising
merit. There are two methods that exist. As you know one is by title and the
other by decoration.
we have to aim at is really the question of heritable titles and we should see
that provision is made for decorations and various other things because it is
only titles that have been prohibited, not decorations and honours."
(Emphasis added) Pressed to a vote, the suggestion that the clause should be
omitted was lost by 14 votes to 10; but Mr. Panikkar's proposal that only
heritable titles should be forbidden was accepted by Mr. Shah and was
unanimously adopted by the Committee. The relevant part of Clause 7 of the
Committee's Interim Report to the Constituent Assembly read :
heritable title shall be conferred by the Union."
April 30, 1947, this clause was discussed in the
Constituent Assembly. While moving the clause, Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel observed
that titles were often being abused for corrupting the public life of the
country and, therefore, it was better that their abolition should be provided
as a fundamental right. He informed the Assembly that it had been decided to
drop the word 'heritable' as it had become a matter of controversy. While
moving the amendment, Mr. M.R. Masani stated :
will mean that the free Indian State will not confer any titles of any kind, whether heritable
or otherwise, that is, for the life of the incumbent.
be possible for the Union to honour some of its citizens who distinguish
themselves in several walks of life like science and the arts, with other kinds
of honours not amounting to titles; but the idea of a man putting something
before or after his name as a reward for service rendered will not be possible
in a free India." (Emphasis added) While supporting the amendment, Sri Prakasa
I should like to make it plain that this clause does not prohibit even the
State from bestowing a proper honour. We are distinguishing between titles and honours.
A title is something that hangs to one's name. I understand it is a British
innovation. Other States also honour their citizens for good work but those
citizens do not necessarily hang their titles to their names as people in Britain or British-governed parts of the
world do. That is all that this clause seeks to do ........................ we
want to abolish this corroding, corrupting practice which makes individuals go
about currying favour with authority to get particular distinctions."
(Emphasis added) While opposing the amendment, Seth Govind Das and Mr. H.V. Kamath
complained that the clause covered only the future conferment of titles and
that it was necessary also to abolish titles conferred earlier by the
"alien imperialist Government". Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel in replying to
the debate referred to the point raised by Seth Govind Das and Mr. Kamath.
Pleading for forgetting "all about past titles", he said that the
Assembly was really legislating for the future and not for the past; some
people who had obtained titles from the British Government after they had
"spent so much" and "worked so hard" for them, should be
left alone; disturbing their titles might be "interpreted as a sign of
the acceptance of the amendment moved by Mr. M.R. Masani the relevant part of
the clause read as follows :
title shall be conferred by the Union."
With a minor modification, the provision appeared as Article 12(1) in the Draft
Constitution prepared by the Drafting Committee:- "Article 12(1) - No
title shall be conferred by the State."
The Drafting Committee and its Special Committee, after considering the various
comments, suggestions and amendments received on draft article 12, suggested
Constitutional Advisor, Sir B.N. Rau, supported these new amendments and
it is not intended that titles such as "Field Marshal",
"Admiral", "Air Marshal", "Chief Justice" or
"Doctor" indicating an office or profession, should be discontinued.
It may be pointed out that the term "State" as defined includes
"all local or other authorities within the territory of India". Nor,
presumably, is it intended to prohibit the award of medals or decorations for
gallantry, humanitarian work, etc. not carrying any title." The Drafting
Committee redrafted Article 12(1) to read:
titles or other privileges of birth shall not be conferred by the State."
is important to note that when, on November 30, 1948, draft article 12 came up
for final discussion before the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Ambedkar did not move
the amendment for redrafting clause (1) of Draft Article 12 which had earlier
been accepted by the Drafting Committee.
Draft article, as presented to the Assembly, read as it was framed originally
by the Drafting Committee :- "1) No title shall be conferred by the
State." Mr. T.T. Krishnamachari sought to add the words "not being a
military or academic distinction" after the word title in clause (1). He
felt that this was necessary, firstly, because certain types of titles had to
be permitted, the Government having, for example, already decided to confer
certain military distinctions; secondly, because the State might decide to
revive academic titles like Mahamahopadhyaya, and lastly, because a university
might not be completely divorced from a State in view of the definition of the
latter in draft article 7. (Article 12 of the Constitution).
The amendment moved by Mr.T.T. Krishnamachari was accepted by the Constituent
Assembly on December 1, 1948 and the final clause [later renumbered by the
Drafting Committee as Article 18(1)] read as it does today.
The quotations that appear in the preceding paragraphs have been extracted from
Volumes III and VII of the Constituent Assembly Debates and from "The
Framing of India's Constitution", a study in five volumes, edited by B. Shiva
may also refer to the views expressed by Sir B.N. Rau. As already stated, he
was appointed the Chairman of the Prime Minister's Committee on Awards and Honours
which was appointed as early as in 1948. At the very first meeting of the Committee,
one of the members raised the issue of the validity of the proposed awards, in
view of Article 12 of the Draft Constitution which sought to abolish titles.
Sir B.N. Rau, who had, in his capacity as Member of the Drafting Committee
contributed to the discussion regarding Draft Article 12, pointed out that
'titles' did not necessarily include all orders and distinctions. He referred
to the U.S. Constitution which forbids the grant of titles of nobility but
allows decorations such as the Congressional Medal of Honour and the
Distinguished Service Cross. He stated that in Constitutions where orders and
decorations as well as titles are intended to be prohibited, separate mention
is usually made, as had been done in Article 73 and Article 109 of the Danzig and
Weimar Constitutions respectively.
may now refer to the constitutional provisions of certain other countries
analogous to Article 18(1) of our Constitution:
Article 73 of the Danzig Constitution (as it then was) read :
with the exception of academic degrees:- shall not be awarded except when they
denote an office or a profession.
and Decorations may not be awarded by the free State.
national of Danzig may accept titles or orders.:" 2.The Constitution of
The United States of America, 1787.
1, Section 9 Clause (8) : "No title of nobility shall be granted by the
United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them
shall, without consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument, office,
or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince, or foreign State." 3.The
Constitution of Japan.
XIV : "Peers and Peerage shall not be recognised. No privilege shall
accompany any award of honour, decoration or any distinction, nor shall any
such award be valid beyond the life time of the individual who holds or
hereafter may receive it." 4.The Constitution of the Republic of Ireland,
1937 Section 40 (2) : "1. Titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the
title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the
prior approval of the Government." Similar provisions are to be found in :
Article 3, Section 1, Sub-section (9) of the Constitution of Philippines, 1935;
Article 78 of the Constitution of Iceland, 1944; and
Article 109 of the Weimar Constitution, 1919.
From the discussion in the preceding paragraphs, it is clear that in enacting
Article 18(1), the framers of the Constitution sought to put an end to the
practice followed by the British in respect of conferment of titles. They,
therefore, prohibited titles of nobility and all other titles that carry
suffixes or prefixes as they result in the creation of a distinct unequal class
of citizens. However, the framers did not intend that the State should not
officially recognise merit or work of an extraordinary nature. They, however,
mandated that the honours conferred by the State should not be used as suffixes
or prefixes, i.e., as titles, by the recipients.
Awards of this nature are conferred by many countries around the world. Even
countries such as the United States of America, whose Constitutions
specifically bar the conferment of titles of nobility, follow the practice of
regularly conferring civil awards. In the United States, the Presidential Medal
of Freedom, instituted in 1957, honours Americans and others who make
exceptional contributions to national security or interest, world peace,
culture and so forth. In France, the Palmes Academiques is awarded for merit in
teaching and for literature, science and other cultural activities. There are
also other awards for social merit, public health, tourism, craftsmanship,
postal merit, etc. The Canadian Government established the Order of Canada in
1967 and it is awarded for a wide variety of fields including agriculture,
ballet, medicine, philanthropy, etc.
Order of Canada has three levels of membership - Companion, Officer and Member.
The total number of living companions may not at any time exceed 150. No more
than 15 Companions, 46 Officers and 92 Members may be appointed in any given
year. The Order of Merit which is said to be the inspiration behind the
National Awards, was instituted in 1902, and is awarded for outstanding service
by British Scientists, writers, or other distinguished civilians. It is limited
to 24 members. It does not carry any title or rank.
The National Awards are not violative of the principles of equality as
guaranteed by the provisions of the Constitution. The theory of equality does
not mandate that merit should not be recognized. Article 51A of the
Constitution speaks of the fundamental duties of every citizen of India. In
this context, we may refer to the various clauses of Article 51A and
specifically clause (j) which exhorts every citizen "to strive towards
excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the
nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement." It
is, therefore, necessary that there should be a system of awards and
decorations to recognise excellence in the performance of these duties.
Hereditary titles of nobility conflict with the principle of equality insofar
as they create a separate, identifiable class of people who are distinct from
the rest of society and have access to special privileges. Titles that are not
hereditary but carry suffixes or prefixes have the same effect, though the
degree may be lesser. While other Constitutions also prohibit the conferment of
titles of nobility, ours may perhaps be unique in requiring that awards
conferred by the State are not to be used as suffixes or prefixes. This
difference is borne out of the peculiar problems that these titles had created
in pre-independent India and the earnest desire of the framers to prevent the
repetition of these circumstances in Free, Independent India.
has been contended before us that over the years, the purpose for which these
awards were instituted has been diluted and they are granted liberally to
persons who are undeserving of them. The perversion of the system was the
motivating factor behind the Bill introduced in Parliament by Acharya Kripalani
to abolish these decorations. It is to be remembered that Acharya Kripalani was
the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights where the present
Article 18(1) was originally formulated. He was, therefore, fully aware of the
exact import of Article 18(1). It is significant that in the debates in
Parliament, the thrust of his attack was on the misuse of these decorations.
However, it is axiomatic that the misuse of a concept does not change its
inherent nature. The National Awards do not amount to "titles" within
the meaning of Article 18(1) and they should not be used as suffixes or
prefixes. If this is done, the defaulter should forfeit the National Award
conferred on him or her by following the procedure laid down in Regulation 10
of each of the four notifications creating these National Awards.
The guidelines contained in the communique from the Ministry of Home Affairs
towards the selection of probable recipients are extremely wide, imprecise,
amenable to abuse and wholly unsatisfactory for the important objective that
they seek to achieve. There are no limitations prescribed for the maximum
number of awards that can be granted in a given year or the maximum number that
is permissible in each category. The Prime Minister's Committee on Awards &
Honours, 1948 had recommended certain limitations in terms of numbers but these
have not been incorporated in the extant guidelines. As stated earlier, most
countries have provided for such limitations in respect of their civil awards.
That is for the obvious reason that the importance of the awards is not
diluted. While in the grant of the Bharat Ratna award sufficient restraint has
been shown, the same cannot be said of all other awards. The exercise of such
restraint is absolutely necessary to safeguard the importance of the awards.
That is why the need for necessarily granting awards every year also requires
reconsideration. These and the fixing of other criteria, which will ensure that
the recipients of these awards are subjected to feelings of respect rather than
suspicion, need to be examined by a high level Committee that may be appointed
by the Prime Minister in consultation with the President of India. Even
otherwise it is time that such a committee looks into the working of the
existing guidelines in view of the experience gained. We say no more as we have
entrusted the task of setting up of the Committee to high level functionaries.
We may only say that the Committee may keep in view our anxiety that the number
of Awards should not be so large as to dilute their value. We may point out
that in some countries, including U.S.A., the total number of Awards to be given is restricted. With these observations
we dispose of both the petitions - cases with no order as to costs.
Before we part with the case, we would like to record our appreciation for the
assistance provided to us, at our request, by Mr. Santosh Hegde, Senior
Raghavan [in T.C.(C) No.9/94] S.P. Anand [in T.C.(C) No.1/95] V Union of India
[in both cases]
read the opinion proposed by A.M. Ahmadi, CJI. I agree with the Chief Justice
that Bharat Ratna and Padma awards are not "titles" within Article 18
of the Constitution of India. These awards can be given to the citizens for
exceptional and distinguished services rendered in art, literature, science and
other fields. These awards are national in character and only those who have
achieved distinction at national level can be considered for these awards. The
question to be considered, however, is whether the purpose of instituting these
awards is being achieved and these are being conferred on the deserving
persons. The history and experience shows that, in the beginning, these awards
were given to a limited number of persons but in the recent years there have
been floodgates of awards for the person who are well known, lesser known and
awards have been conferred on businessmen and industrialists who have
multiplied their own wealth and have hardly helped the growth of national
interest. Persons with little or no contribution in any field can be seen
masquerading as Padma awardees. The existing procedure for selection of candidates
is wholly vague and is open to abuse at the whims and fancies of the persons in
of Padma awards without any firm guidelines and fool-proof method of selection
is bound to breed nepotism, favoritism, patronage and even corruption.
the British occupation India has had a spate of title hunters
who brought degradation and much harm to healthy public life. The title hunters
have always been considered a menace to the safe growth of a society. Though
the Padma awards are not titles but in case these awards are given at the whims
of the authorities - without there being proper criteria and method of
selection - they are bound to do more harm to the society than the
title-seekers did during the British regime.
opposing the Bill titled "The Conferment of Decorations on Persons
(Abolition) Bill, 1969" moved by Acharya J.B. Kripalani in the Parliament,
Mr. N.K.P. Salve in his speech (Parliamentary Debates, November 27, 1970)
stated as under:- "SHRI N.K.P. SALVE : I am aware that the decorations
have been bestowed indiscriminately on businessmen and others. In fact, one of
my suggestions is that any decoration awarded to any person who is found guilty
of any 'commercial offence' should be withdrawn. We should be extremely, strict
about the awarding of decorations............ SHRI N.K.P. SALVE : I am entirely
in agreement with Shri Madhu Limaye that some of them have received these
decorations without deserving them in the least if at all they deserved
anything, it was something else. But they have received decorations. In fact,
it is within my knowledge that some of them have put their decorations to
commercial exploitation. In fact, a certain managing director of a company
wrote a letter to me sometime ago. On his letterhead was written 'Ex-Rai Bahadur,
Padma Vibhushan' so and so ................
criteria for awarding these decorations are not very clear. The Bharat Ratna is
to be awarded for exceptional service towards the advancement of art,
literature and science, whereas the Padma Vibhushan is to be awarded for
exceptional and distinguished service. Bharat Ratna is for exceptional service
and Padma Vibhushan is for exceptional and distinguished service. Exceptional
and distinguished service must be given the number one decoration and not
number two. So, there is a patent fallacy in this type of criteria which has
been laid down. It seems some bureaucrat has written this without understanding
all these anomalies in the matter. I do hope that they do some amount of rationalisation
of this matter." The above words were spoken in the Parliament about
quarter of a century back. There has been no application of mind at all by the
successive Governments and the system of giving Padma awards is getting
degenerated with the passage of time. It has already reached a point where
political or narrow group interests are being rewarded by those in office for
the time being.
examination of initial deliberations regarding institution of these awards show
that in the first meeting of the committee held on February 27, 1948 under the
Chairmanship of Mr. B.N. Rau, it was recommended that an extremely high
standard should be prescribed for these awards and total number of award to be
given in each category should be limited and fixed. It was recommended that
awards should be made very sparingly and only on grounds of outstanding merit.
They should not be made merely because there happen to be vacancies in a
particular category. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,
prepared a note dated January
10, 1953 for the
consideration of the Cabinet. It was proposed to institute suitable awards for
meritorious public services. The note clearly suggested that the number of
recipients in various awards must be restricted. The report was considered by
the Cabinet presided over by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and was accepted with some
to ensure that Padma awards are truly national in character and above party and
political considerations, I suggest that a committee at national level be
constituted by the Prime Minister of India in consultation with the President
of India which may include, among others, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Chief
Justice of India or his nominee and the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
At the State level similar committees may be formed by the Chief Minister of
the State in consultation with the Governor. The committee may, among others,
include Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice of the State or his
nominee and the leader of the Opposition.
function of the State committees may only be to recommend the names of the
persons, who in their opinion are deserving of a particular award. The final
decision shall have to be taken by the National Committee on Awards. No award
should be conferred except on the recommendation of the National Committee. The
recommendation must have the approval of the Prime Minister and the President
number of awards under each category must be curtailed to preserve their
prestige and dignity. In any given year the awards, all put together, may not
writ petitions are disposed of. No costs.