Legality of Bharat Ratna Award

Decoration of ‘Bharat Ratna’ could be made to an individual only in case of some exceptional service rendered in the area of advancement of Art, Literature and Science and also in recognition of public service of the highest order, however, as per amended regulation, now the decoration of ‘Bharat Ratna’ can be made in recognition of exceptional service and the performance of highest order in any field of human endeavor.

By a  Bharat Ratna notification president of India instituted the award on 2nd January 1954

The medal shall be awarded for exceptional services towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of public service of the highest Order.

The President may cancel and annul the award of the medal to any person and thereupon the name of such recipient in the Register shall be erased and the recipient shall be required to surrender the medal; but it shall be competent for the President to restore the decoration when such cancellation and annulment has been withdrawn. The names of those persons, upon whom the decoration may be conferred, shall be published in the Gazette of India, and a Register thereof maintained under the direction of the President.

The makers of our Constitution have consciously made a provision in the form of Article 18 of the Constitution of India prohibiting the State from conferring any title with the exclusion of military or academic distinction. However, the ‘Padma Award’ and ‘Bharat Ratna’ are clearly distinguishable from title as laid down by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Balaji Raghavan and S.P. Anand Vs. Union of Inddia,[ AIR 1996 SC 770 : (1995) 9 JT 393 : (1995) 7 SCALE 202 : (1996) 1 SCC 361 : (1995) 6 SCR 694 Supp : (1996) 1 UJ 197]. In para 28 of the aforesaid judgment, it has been held by the Hon’ble Apex Court as under:–

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.

6. Further, in para 30 of the said judgment, the Hon’ble Apex Court has also held that National Awards i.e. ‘Padma Award’ and ‘Bharat Ratna’ are not violative of principles of equality. The opinion of Hon’ble Apex Court in this respect finds expression in para 30 of the aforesaid judgment, which runs as under-

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.

7. Thus, it is clear that taking a clue from Article 51A of the Constitution of India, it has been stated by Hon’ble Apex Court that it is necessary that there should be a system of awards and decorations to recognize excellence in performance of duties enumerated in Article 51A of the Constitution of India.

8. We may not loose sight of sub-clause (j) of Article 51A which expects every citizen of the country “to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.

9. Initially the regulation framed for award or decoration of ‘Bharat Ratna’ was promulgated by the notification dated 08.01.1955 which is quoted below:–
Office of the Secretary to the President
Notification
New Delhi, the 8th January, 1955

No. 1-Press/55 – The President is pleased to make the following revised regulations for the award of the decoration BHARAT RATNA in supersession of those published in Notification No. 1 Pres./54, dated the 2nd January, 1954:-

1. The decoration shall be conferred by the President by a Sanad under his hand and seal.

2. The decoration shall be in the form of a Peepul leaf, two and five-sixteenth inches in length, one and seven-eight inches at its greatest breadth and one-eight of an inch in thickness. It shall be of toned/bronze. On its observe shall be embossed a replica of the Sun five-eighths of an inch in diameter with rays spreading out from five-sixteenths of an inch to half an inch from the centre of the Sun, below which shall be embossed the words BHARAT RATNA in Hindi. On the reverse shall be embossed the State Emblem and motto in Hindi. The Emblem (but not the motto), the Sun and the rim shall be of platinum. The inscriptions shall be of @ burnished bronze.

3. A sealed pattern of the decoration (manufactured according to the specification described above and the drawing in the annexure to these regulation) shall be deposited and kept.

4. The decoration shall be worn round the neck by a white riband % one and a half inches in width.

5. The decoration shall be awarded for exceptional service towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of public service of the highest order.

6. Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex shall be eligible for the award.

7. The decoration may be awarded posthumously.

8. The names of the persons, upon whom the decoration is conferred, shall be published in the Gazette of India and a register of all such recipients shall be maintained under the direction of the President.

9. The miniature of the decoration which may be worn on certain occasions by recipients shall be half the size of the BHARAT RATNA, and a sealed pattern of the said miniature shall be deposited and kept.

10. The President may cancel and annul the award of the decoration to any person and thereupon his name shall be erased from the Register and he shall be required to surrender the decoration and the Sanad. But it shall be competent for the President to restore the decoration and Sanad and to withdraw the orders of cancellation and annulment. The notice of cancellation or restoration in every case shall be published in the Gazette of India.

11. All persons upon whom the decoration BHARAT RATNA was conferred under the Regulations issued with Notification No. 1-Pres./54, dated 2nd January, 1954, shall, for all purposes of these Regulations, be deemed to be persons on whom the decoration BHARAT RATNA has been conferred by the President.

10. In the aforesaid regulation, certain amendments have been made by the subsequent notification dated 16.11.2011 whereby Regulation 5 has been substituted. The notification dated 16.11.2011 is also being quoted herein below:
PRESIDENTS SECRETARIAT
NOTIFICATION
New Delhi, the 16th November, 2011

Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Balaji Raghavan (supra), we may only state that pursuant to the aforesaid constitutional Bench judgment of Hon’ble the Apex Court, which was delivered on 15.12.1995, general regulations/procedures and practices governing ‘Bharat Ratna’ and ‘Padma Awards’ have been framed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. According to the said regulation, ‘Bharat Ratna’ has to be treated on a different footing from ‘Padma Awards’. The recommendations for ‘Bharat Ratna’ are made by the Prime Minister to the President and no formal recommendations are necessary for the same.

Apex court also observed :

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 persons who are well known, lesser known and even unknown. The Padma 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 authority. Conferment of Padma awards without any firm guidelines and fool-proof method of selection is bound to breed nepotism, favoritism, patronage and even corruption.

Bharat ratna.JPG