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President confers Bharat Ratna to Lal Krishna Advani and four others

Utkarsh Classes 30-03-2024
President confers Bharat Ratna to Lal Krishna Advani and four others Award and Honour 9 min read

In a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 30 March 2024, the President of India, Droupadi Mumrmu, conferred India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on the former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, PV Narasimha Rao, former Chief Minister of Bihar Karpoori Thakur and famous agricultural scientist M.S.Swaminathan.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani will be conferred the award by President Murmu on 31 March 2024. Except for Lal Krishna Advani, the Bharat Ratna to Chaudhary Charan Singh, PV Narasimha Rao, Karpoori Thakur, and M.S.Swaminathan were awarded posthumously.

Chaudhary Charan Singh's son Jayant Chaudhary received the award from the President on his behalf, PV Prabhakar Rao, on behalf of his father, P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Karpoori Thakur's son, Ram Nath Thakur, received the award on behalf of his father, M.S. Swaminathan, and Mrs. Nitya Rao received the award on behalf of her father.

This year, the government conferred Bharat Ratna on five people. This is the highest number in a year for Bharat Ratna and the maximum since 1999 when four people were conferred with Bharat Ratna. 

Civilian Awards in India 

On February 13, 1948, the government of India set up the Prime Minister's Committee on Honours and Awards. Sir. B.N Rau, Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India, was the chairman of the Committee. The committee submitted its report on March 9, 1948. Based on the recommendation of the B.N.Rau committee recommendation, the President of India issued a notification in 1954 and constituted civilian awards to be given by the government of India.  Two awards were constituted: the Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards.  

Bharat Ratna Award 

Bharat Ratna is given to an Indian or a foreigner for exceptional service in advancing art, literature, and science and in recognition of public service of the highest order. The Prime Minister recommends Bharat Ratna to the President of India.

Only two foreigners, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan of Pakistan, also known as Frontier Gandhi and former South African President Nelson Mandela, have been conferred this award. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was conferred the award in 1987, and Mandela in 1990.

Padma Award 

The Padma Award was instituted along with the Bharat Ratna in 1954. In 1954, it had three classes: Pahela Varg, Dusra Varg and Tisra Varg. These were subsequently renamed as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri in 1955.

Categories of Padma Award

Padma Vibhushan: It is given for exceptional and distinguished service in any field, including service rendered by government servants.

Padma Bhushan: It is given for distinguished service of a high order in any field, including the service rendered by government servants.

Padma Shri: It is given for distinguished service in any field, including service rendered by government servants.

Government servants, including those working with Public Sector Undertakings, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these awards.

Controversy Regarding the Awards 

These awards, which are given annually, have also been controversial. The critics of the award argue that these awards are in violation of Article 18(1) of the Indian constitution.

 Article 18(1) of the constitution states, “No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State”. 

The critics argue that these awards are, in fact, titles that have been prohibited by Article 18 of the Constitution. They also argue that these awards are not always based on merit and that the government is not the best judge of merit or the eminence of the person to receive these awards.

In 1969, Acharya J.B. Kripalani introduced a private member bill in the Lok Sabha to abolish these awards.

Suspension of Awards and Supreme Court Judgement 

The award has been suspended twice by the central government. The Janata Party government, which came into power in 1977, cancelled the award in 1977, but no award was conferred in 1978 and 1979.

The Indira Gandhi government, which came to power in 1980, again revived the award.  

The awards were suspended again in 1993-1997 when cases were filed in the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, challenging their constitutional validity.

These cases were transferred from the High Courts to the Supreme Court. A three-judge Supreme Court bench gave its judgment in Balaji Raghavan/ S.P. Anand vs Union Of India 1996. The court held that these awards were not titles under the meaning of Article 18 of the Constitution. The National Awards do not violate the principles of equality as guaranteed by the provisions of the Constitution.

After the Supreme Court judgment, the government of India resumed giving these civilian awards annually from 1998 onwards.

Current Status of the Civilian Award 

The civilian award is not a title, and it cannot be attached as suffixes or prefixes to the names of the awardees to give them the appearance of titles. They cannot be used as titles on letterheads, invitation cards, posters, books, etc, by the awardee.

There is no limit on the number of people who can be given these awards annually.

FAQ

Answer: Sir B.N.Rau

Answer: 1978 and 1979. Again in 1993-97.

Answer: Balaji Raghavan/ S.P. Anand vs Union Of India 1996. The court held that these awards were not titles under the meaning of Article 18 of the Constitution.

Answer: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan of Pakistan in 1987. Former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1990.

Answer: Doctors and Scientists working for the government or Public Sector Undertakings are eligible for Padma Awards.
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