Article 18 of the Constitution of India
From the above, it is clear that the hereditary titles of nobility like, Maharaja, Raj Bahadur, Rai Bahadur, Rai Saheb, Dewan Bahadur, etc, which were conferred by colonial States are banned by Article 18 as these are against the principle of equal status of all. This article prohibits the State to confer titles on anybody whether a citizen or a non-citizen.
Military and academic distinctions are, however, exempted from the prohibition. Clause (3) is there to ensure loyalty to the Government that such person serves for the time being and to shut out all foreign influence in Government affairs or administration. This is the reason why the conferment of titles of “
Bharat Ratna”, “
Padma Vibhushan”, “
Padma Shri”, etc. is not prohibited under Article 18 as they merely denote State recognition of good work or exceptional or distinguished services of the high integrity by citizens in any field. These National Awards were formally instituted in January, 1954 by two Presidential Notifications. The said Notifications also provide that any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex, shall be eligible for these awards. It was also made clear that these civilian awards cannot be used as titles and should not be attached as suffixes or prefixes to the name.
The Draft article, as presented to the Constitutent Assembly, read as it was framed originally by the Drafting Committee “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.
In 1977, these awards were
discontinued by the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai, but were again
revived in 1980 by the Indira Gandhi government. Since then, the National Awards are conferred annually on Republic Day.
In Balaji Raghavan / S.P.Anand vs Union Of India1) hon'ble Supreme court held that
“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.”