Bhatnagar Vs. Union of India & Ors  Insc 339
(13 May 2005)
R.C. Lahoti & P.K. Balasubramanyan R.C. Lahoti, Cji
On 24th January 1950, the Constituent Assembly of India
finally met to sign the Constitution. The question of having a National Anthem
for India as a free country and a nation was
under consideration. The Constituent Assembly had appointed a Committee to make
recommendations about the final selection of a National Anthem.
deliberations it was considered desirable to leave it with the President to
make a declaration in the Assembly on the question of adopting a National
Anthem for India. In the Constitution Hall, on 24th January 1950, where the Constituent Assembly of
India finally met to sign the Constitution, President Dr. Rajendra Prasad
declared his decision on the matter relating to National Anthem in his opening
statement in the following words:- "There is one matter which has been
pending for discussion, namely the question of the National Anthem. At one time
it was thought that the matter might be brought up before the House and a
decision taken by the House by way of a resolution. But it has been felt that,
instead of taking a formal decision by means of a resolution, it was better if
I make a statement with regard to the National Anthem. Accordingly I make this
composition consisting of the words and music known as Jana Gana Mana is the
National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations in the words as the
Government may authorise as occasion arises; and the song Vande Mataram, which
has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured
equally with Jana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it. I hope this
will satisfy the Members." Constituent Assembly Debates, XII. (24th January, 1950) After the Constitution had been
signed by all the members of the Assembly, the President, on the request of Shri
M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar permitted all members of the House to sing Jana Gana
Mana in chorus. Then led by Shrimati Purnima Banerji all of them sang it in
chorus for the first time after its formal adoption as our National Anthem.
following is the transliteration i.e. the text of the National Anthem in Hindi:
jaya he Bharata-bhagya-vidhata.
Dravida-Utkala-Banga Vindhya-Himachala-Yamuna-Ganga Uchchala-Jaladhi-taranga.
name jage, Tava shubha asisa mange, Gahe tava jaya gatha, Jana-gana-mangala-dayaka
jaya he Bharata-bhagya-vidhata.
he, jaya he, jaya he Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he!" (Source __ India 2004, A
Reference Annual, published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting, Government of India, p.22) The great poet Rabindranath Tagore
had himself rendered the English translation of his poem which reads as under:-
"Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people, dispenser of India's destiny.
name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind, Gujarat and
Maratha, Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea.
pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
saving of all people waits in thy hand, thou dispenser of India's destiny.
victory, victory to thee." (Source, India 2004, ibid, p.22) The song was
first sung on December
27, 1911 at the Calcutta session of the Indian National
Congress. Ever since the date of its being adopted by the Constituent Assembly
of India, the National Anthem has been sung throughout the length and breadth
of India, by every patriot, every citizen
and all people of this country. It has been sung even in places beyond India.
Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 (Act No. 69 of 1971) enacted
by the Parliament makes it an offence for whoever intentionally prevents the
singing of the Indian National Anthem or causes disturbance to any assembly
engaged in such singing. Article 51A of the Constitution of India, inserted by
Forty- second Amendment, provides for it being the fundamental duty, amongst
others, of every citizen of India to abide
by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag
and the National Anthem. The Constitution of India, its ideals and
institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem have been treated
almost on par. From the language of Clause (a) of Article 51A, it is clear that
the National Anthem is an ideal and an institution for the Indian citizens. In
Re: Kerala Education Bill, 1959 (1959 SCR 995), S.R. Das, Chief Justice, quoted
a stanza from the National Anthem as India sending out its message of goodwill
to the world and thus the genius of India finding unity in diversity by
assimilating the best of all creeds and cultures.
petitioner is an advocate. He has filed this petition, claiming to be in public
interest, invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Article
32 of the Constitution of India seeking a direction to the Union of India to
rectify the text of National Anthem and delete the word 'Sindh' therefrom.
Earlier too, he had filed a similar petition, registered as W.P.(C)
No.506/2004. When the matter came up for hearing on 20.9.2004, the Court was
not inclined to entertain the petition. However, the petitioner insisted that
the Government of India had the authority to alter the text of National Anthem
and therefore, a direction by the Court in that regard was called for. The
petition was dismissed though the petitioner was allowed liberty of inviting
the attention of the Central Government to the facts stated in the writ
petition and such other material as may be with the petitioner. The petitioner
did make a representation on 24.9.2004. On 3.12.2004, he once again filed this
writ petition seeking the very same and the only relief as was sought for
earlier. The Court directed a notice to be issued to the respondent-Union of India for having its response.
the Union of India has filed its response opposing the prayer made by the
petitioner, there are a number of applicants seeking intervention in the
hearing so as to oppose the writ petition.
of the intervenors are All India Sindhu Culture Society headed by a former
Judge of the High Court, Rashtriya Sindhu Parishad headed by an Advocate,
Sindhi Council of India A Registered Society, International Sindhi Forum,
Sindhi Jagriti Sabha, Delhi Pradesh Sindhi Samaj and a few other similar
institutions and representative bodies.
individuals belonging to Sindhi or non-Sindhi community have also sought for
intervention. In substance, all the intervenors have offered their vehement
opposition to the petition submitting that their feelings, first as an Indian
and then as members of Sindhi community who love Sindhi as a language and also
as a culture, have been hurt by the move of the petitioner. They have sought
for the petition being dismissed.
stand taken by the Union of India is that the National Anthem is a highly
emotive issue; any alteration/substitution in the National Anthem will distort
the National Anthem and may give rise to several unnecessary controversies,
while no fruitful object will be served. The National Anthem is not open to
mutilation. The song is a literary creation which cannot be changed. The
National Anthem reflects our culture spread throughout the length and breadth
of India whether it is North, South, East or
heard the petitioner appearing in-person, the learned Attorney General for the
Union of India and the several counsel for intervenors led by Mr. Ram Jethmalani,
Senior Advocate, and a few intervenors appearing in-person, we are satisfied
that the petition is wholly devoid of any merit and is liable to be dismissed.
The main plank of the petitioner's case is that the geographical region known
as 'Sindh', was a part of India pre-partition (i.e. before 15th August, 1947)
and ever since then it is not a part of India, and therefore, the use of the
word 'Sindh' in the National Anthem is misplaced and deserves to be deleted for
which an appropriate direction needs to be issued to the Union of India. In our
opinion, the submission is misconceived for very many reasons which we proceed
to summarize herein below.
National Anthem is a hymn or song expressing patriotic sentiments or feelings.
It is not a chronicle which defines the territory of the nation which has
adopted the anthem. A few things such as __ a National Flag, a National Song, a
National Emblem and so on, are symbolic of our national honour and heritage.
The National Anthem did not, and does not, enlist the states or regional areas
which were part of India at the point of time when it was
written. Nor is it necessary that the structure of the National Anthem should
go on changing as and when the territories or the internal distribution of
geographical regions and provinces undergoes changes. Very recently Uttaranchal,
Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have been carved out by reorganizing certain states.
Does it mean that the National Anthem should be enlarged, re-written or
modified to include the names of these new states? The obvious answer is no.
The National Anthem is our patriotic salutation to our motherland, nestling
between the Himalyas and the oceans and the seas surrounding her. The mention
of a few names therein is symbolic of our recollection of the glorious heritage
of India. 'Sindh' is not just a geographical
region. It refers to the place and to its people. Sindhis are spread throughout
the country and they derive their such name as having originated and migrated
from Sindh. 'Sindh' also refers to the river 'Sindhu' or 'Indus'. It also refers to a culture, one of the oldest in
the world and even modern India feels
proud of its having inherited the Indus Valley Civilisation as an inalienable
part of its heritage. River Indus (Sindhu)
finds numerous references in the Indian Classical Literature including Rig
National Anthem is the poem as it was written by Rabindranath Tagore. He
himself had said that the five stanzas in which the poem was written is
addressed to God. The poem is a reflection of the real India as a country ___ a
confluence of many religions, races, communities and geographical entities. It
is a message of unity in diversity. It is a patriotic song. It has since the
decades inspired many by arousing their patriotic sentiments when sung in
rhythm. It is the representative of the ethos of the country.
classic, once created, becomes immortal and inalienable; even its creator may
not feel like making any change in it. Any tampering with the script of the
poem would be showing disrespect to the great poet ___ Rabindranath Tagore.
hue and cry raised by the petitioner in his petition and also during the
hearing at the Bar does not amount to raising any constitutional issue or
canvassing any fundamental right for the enforcement of which the jurisdiction
of this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution can be invoked. The issue is
puerile. Shri Milon Banerjee, the learned Attorney General for India, submitted
that the Union of India, a democratically elected popular Government is not in favour
of making any alteration in or any tampering with a finely structured poem or
song, which is the National Anthem. Every word placed therein is carefully in
position in the whole composition. A suggestion seeking a substitution of words
in the National Anthem would be "a bid to rob Tagore of his
greatness". He further submitted that in any poetry the structure has some
purpose other than to clarify the content. Poetry is more structured than
prose. It is the structure which forces the author to be more creative; to find
ways of saying things which do not disrupt the flow. The choice of words and
the structure often provide a path for the reader to follow outside the flow of
the theme and a good poet achieves interesting things by playing the flow
through the content and off the content. The fabric of words is the creation of
the author. A poem once popular, more so if adopted as a National Anthem,
becomes symbolic of the feelings, ideas and images that have come to be
associated in our minds with the words used by the author in structuring the
poem and then the meaning of a word or a group of words reaches far beyond its
dictionary definition. The learned Attorney General invited our attention to
the book "India's National Anthem" by Prabodhchandra Sen, published
by Vishva Bharti, Calcutta in May 1979, wherein Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of
the Nation, has been quoted as having said in a prayer discourse on 8th May,
1946 on the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore's Birth Anniversary about Jana Gana
Mana ___ "It is not only a song but is also like a devotional hymn".
The National Anthem has been given a tune. Its singing or playing takes 52
learned Attorney General read out the following passage from "India's National Anthem" (ibid)
which we feel inclined to quote verbatim for its value:
MORNING SONG OF INDIA" In the year 1919, during his tour of South India, Rabindranath spent five days at
the Theosophical College, Madanapalle, at the invitation of Principal James H.
Cousins. There he sang the song 'Janaganamana' at some function.
audience was very much moved by the tune and at their request he made an
English translation of the song and called it 'The Morning Song of India'. The
college authorities, greatly impressed by the tune and the lofty ideals of the
song, selected it as their prayer song to be sung every morning before the
day's work commenced. In a letter (23.7.34) Principal Cousins writes:
working morning Janaganamana is sung by hundreds of young people in our big hall.
We want to extend its purifying influence by sending copies of it to other
schools and colleges in India and by making it known abroad.
in the year 1936, the translation mentioned above was printed in the Poet's own
handwriting in the College Commemoration Volume and distributed widely, with a
note that this 'would become one of the world's most precious documents From Madanapalle
Janagana has spread all over India, and is admired in Europe and America.' In
the next year (1937), when a bitter controversy was raging throughout the whole
country over the selection of India's National Anthem, Principal Cousins issued
a statement to the Press (3.11.37) in which he stated:
suggestion is that Dr. Rabindranath's own intensely patriotic, ideally stimulating,
and at the same time world-embracing Morning Song of India (Janaganamana)
should be confirmed officially, as what it has for almost twenty years been
unofficially, namely, the true National Anthem of India." Mr. Ram Jethmalani,
the learned senior counsel leading the intervenors, severely criticized the
conduct of the petitioner who has mentioned in the writ petition that the
continued use of the word 'Sindh' in the National Anthem offends patriotic
sentiments of the citizens of India and is offensive of sovereignty of the neighbouring
country. He goes on to allege that the sentiments of 100 crore Indians can be soothened
by correcting and updating the "National Anthem".
learned senior counsel posed the questions __ Whose cause the petitioner is
pleading ___ of the citizens of India or of a neighbouring country? Wherefrom does the petitioner gather an
impression and plead that he is espousing the cause of more than one billion
people of India? The learned senior counsel was at
pains to point out that ever since this petition was filed in the Court and
notice was directed to be issued the Indian newspapers have been flooded with
editorials and hundreds of 'letters to the editor' highlighting the sentiments
of the people of India, and in particular of Sindhis who have felt hurt by the
move of the petitioner. There are several oppositions filed in the Court. There
is not even one who may have spoken in support of the petitioner.
find merit in the submissions made by the learned Attorney General for India and Mr. Ram Jethmalani, the learned
senior counsel appearing for the intervenors, and agree with the same.
satisfied that the petitioner is not entitled to the relief prayed for. The
petition is wholly devoid of any merit. The petition is not in public interest.
It is a petition which should never have been filed. It is more of the
publicity interest litigation wherein the petitioner seems to have achieved his
purpose. To discourage the filing of such like petitions which result only in wasting
the valuable time of this Court, we direct the petition to be dismissed with
costs quantified at Rs.10,000/-.