Bharat Ratna

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Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna.jpg
Type Civilian
Category National
Description An image of the Sun along with the words "Bharat Ratna", inscribed in Devanagari script, on a peepul leaf
Instituted 1954
First awarded 1954
Last awarded 2013
Total awarded 43
Awarded by Government of India
Ribbon IND Bharat Ratna BAR.png
First awardee(s)
Recent awardee(s)
Award rank
Padma Vibhushan →

Bharat Ratna (Hindi pronunciation: [bʰaːrt̪ rt̪ n]; Jewel of India)[1] is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. Instituted on 2 January 1954, the award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order", without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. Per original statutes for the award, only the fields of art, literature, science along with public services were made eligible. However, in December 2011, the Government of India broadened the criteria to include "any field of human endeavour". Recommendations to award the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, and a maximum of three people may be awarded in a year. The recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion; there is no monetary grant associated with the award. The recipients of the Bharat Ratna rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence, but are constitutionally prohibited from using the award name as a title.

The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna were politician C. Rajagopalachari, scientist C. V. Raman and philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who were honoured in 1954. Since then, 43 individuals have been bestowed the award including 11 posthumous declarations. The original statutes did not provide for posthumous awards, but they were amended to allow so in January 1955. In 1966, former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri became the first individual to be honoured posthumously. In 2013, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, at age 40, became the youngest awardee, while social reformer Dhondo Keshav Karve was awarded on his 100th birthday. Though usually conferred on Indian citizens, the Bharat Ratna has been awarded to one naturalised citizen—Mother Teresa in 1980—and to two non-Indians—Pakistan national Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1987 and former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1990. The most recent recipients are C. N. R. Rao and Sachin Tendulkar who were honoured in 2013.

The award was briefly suspended twice along with other personal civil honours; first time from July 1977 to January 1980 with the change in the national government and second time from August 1992 till December 1995 when several public-interest litigations challenged the constitutional validity of the awards. In 1992, the government's decision to confer the award posthumously on Subhash Chandra Bose met with controversy. Due to the debate surrounding Bose's death, the "posthumous" mention of Bose was much criticised, and his family refused to accept the award. Following a 1997 Supreme Court decision, the press communique announcing Bose's award was cancelled; it is the only time when the award was announced but not conferred.

History[edit]

On 2 January 1954, a press communique was released from the office of the secretary to the President of India to institute two civilian awards—Bharat Ratna and the three-tier Padma Vibhushan, classified into "Pahela Warg" (Class I), "Dusra Warg" (Class II), and "Tisra Warg" (Class III).[2] The Bharat Ratna is termed as the highest civilian award of India, followed by Padma Vibhushan classifications. A year later on 15 January 1955, the Padma Vibhushan classifications were altered into three different awards; the Padma Vibhushan, the highest of three awards followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri.[3]

There is no formal provision that recipients of the Bharat Ratna should be Indian citizens. It has been awarded to a naturalised Indian citizen, Mother Teresa in 1980, and to two non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan—a Pakistan national, in 1987 and Nelson Mandela—a South African national, in 1990.[4] Sachin Tendulkar, at the age of 40, became the youngest person and first sportsperson to receive the honour,[5] whereas Dhondo Keshav Karve was awarded on his 100th birthday on 18 April 1958 in a special ceremony.[6][a] Till 2014, the award has been conferred upon 43 people with 11 posthumous declarations.[9][10]

The award was briefly suspended twice; first time in 1977 and again in 1993.[11] When Morarji Desai sworn in as the fourth Prime Minister of India in 1977, his government withdrew all personal civil honours on 13 July 1977 and the past recipients of the awards were asked not to use the awards as a title.[12][13] The awards were reintroduced on 25 January 1980 when Indira Gandhi again became the Prime Minister in 1980.[14] The civilian awards were suspended again in 1993 when two Public-Interest Litigations were filed, one in Kerala High Court and another in Madhya Pradesh High Court, to challenge "the constitutional validity" of the awards.[11] This time it took three years till the awards were reintroduced by the Supreme Court of India in December 1995.[13][15]

Regulations[edit]

The Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India, is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order".[16] Per original regulations released in 1954, only the fields of art, literature, science along with public services were made eligible for the awards without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex.[2] However, in December 2011, the rules were changed to the current regulations to include "any field of human endeavour".[17] The original statutes did not make allowance for posthumous awards, though this provision was added in the January 1955 statute and Lal Bahadur Shastri became the first recipient to be honoured posthumously in 1966.[3][18]

Any formal recommendations are not required for the award, though the recommendations can only be made by the Prime Minister of India to the President. The maximum number of awards given in a particular year is restricted to three and the recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion without any monetary grant. In terms of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution of India,[b] the recipients cannot use the award as a prefix or suffix to their name. Although, recipients may use either "Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President" or "Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award" as an expression to indicate that they have been honoured with the award.[16] The holders of the Bharat Ratna rank 7th in the Indian order of precedence.[20]

The award can be considered to be conferred only if the recipient's name is published in The Gazette of India—a public journal and an authorised legal document of the Government of India, and a recipients' register maintained under the direction of the President. Only the President has given an authority to cancel and annul the award. If the award is cancelled and annulled, the recipient is required to surrender the medal with his/her name removed from the register. The President can restore the award if the cancellation and annulment has been withdrawn. It is required to have a notice of cancellation or restoration of the award to be published in The Gazette of India.[2][3]

Specifications[edit]

The original specifications for the award in 1954 mentioned the medal to be in circular shape with the diameter of 1 38 inches (35 mm) and was to be made of gold. The obverse side of the medal was designed to have the Sun with the rays embossed in the centre with the words "Bharat Ratna" written in Hindi language in silver-gilt on the upper edge and a wreath on the lower edge. The reverse side was designed to have the Emblem of India in the centre with national motto of India "Satyameva Jayate" (Truth alone triumphs) written in Hindi in silver-gilt on the lower edge.

However, the original design and specification were changed to its current form a year later. The current decoration is in the form of a Peepal leaf, about 2 516 inches (59 mm) long 1 78 inches (48 mm) wide and 18 inch (3.2 mm) thick. The Sun with the rays embossed on the obverse side of the medal has a diameter of 58 inch (16 mm) with rays spreading out from 56 inch (21 mm) to 12 inch (13 mm) from the center of the Sun. The words "Bharat Ratna" on the obverse side and Emblem of India along with "Satyameva Jayate" on the reverse side are kept same as from the original specifications. The emblem, the Sun and the rim of the medal are made up of platinum. A 2-inch-wide (51 mm) white ribbon is attached to the medal and is designed to be worn around the neck by the recipients.[3][11][21] In 1957, the silver-gilt decoration was changed to burnished bronze.[2][22]

List of recipients[edit]

Key
   # Naturalized citizen recipient
   double-dagger Non-citizen recipient
   dagger Posthumous recipient
List of laureates awarded with the Bharat Ratna[9][10]
Year Image Laureates Notes Refs.
1954 C Rajagopalachari Feb 17 2011.JPG C. Rajagopalachari Independence activist, last and the only Indian Governor-General of India [23]
Sir CV Raman.JPG C. V. Raman Nobel laureate physicist (1930) [24][25]
Radhakrishnan.jpg Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Philosopher, India's first Vice-President (1952–62), and second President (1962–67) [26][27][28]
1955  – Bhagwan Das Independence activist, theosophist, and founder of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith [29]
 – Visvesvaraya Civil engineer, Diwan of Mysore (1912–18), and Knight Commander of the Indian Empire [30][31]
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-61849-0001, Indien, Otto Grotewohl bei Ministerpräsident Nehru cropped.jpg Jawaharlal Nehru Independence activist, author, and first Prime Minister of India (1947–64) [32][33]
1957  – Govind Ballabh Pant Independence activist, first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1950–54) [34][35]
1958  – Dhondo Keshav Karve Social reformer [36]
1961  – Bidhan Chandra Roy Physician-Surgeon and second Chief Minister of West Bengal (1948–62) [37][38]
 – Purushottam Das Tandon Independence activist, educator [39]
1962 Food Minister Rajendra Prasad during a radio broadcast in Dec 1947 cropped.jpg Rajendra Prasad Independence activist, lawyer, first President of India (1950–62) [27][40]
1963  – Zakir Hussain Independence activist, second Vice-President of India (1950–62), and third President of India (1962–67) [27][28][41]
 – Pandurang Vaman Kane Indologist and Sanskrit scholar [42]
1966 1736 Lal Bahadur Shastri cropped.jpg Lal Bahadur Shastri dagger Independence activist and second Prime Minister of India (1964–67) [33][42]
1971 Indira2.jpg Indira Gandhi Former Prime Minister of India (1966–77, 1980–84) [33]
1975  – V. V. Giri Trade unionist, first Acting President of India, and fourth President of India (1969–74) [27][43]
1976  – K. Kamaraj dagger Independence activist and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1954–57, 1957–62, 1962–63) [44]
1980 MotherTeresa 090.jpg Mother Teresa # Catholic nun, founder of the Missionaries of Charity and Nobel peace prize laureate (1979) [45]
1983  – Vinoba Bhave dagger Independence activist, social reformer, and Ramon Magsaysay Award laureate (1958) [4][46]
1987 Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.jpg Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan double-dagger Independence activist [47]
1988 M. G. Ramachandran.jpg M. G. Ramachandran dagger Film actor and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (1977–80, 1980–84, 1985–87) [44][c]
1990 Young Ambedkar.gif B. R. Ambedkar dagger Chief architect of the Indian Constitution and social reformer [49][50]
Nelson Mandela-2008 (edit).jpg Nelson Mandela double-dagger Leader of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1993) [51]
1991 Rajiv Gandhi (cropped).jpg Rajiv Gandhi dagger Sixth Prime Minister of India (1984–89) [33]
Sardar patel (cropped).jpg Vallabhbhai Patel dagger Independence activist and first Deputy Prime Minister of India (1947–50) [52]
Morarji Desai (portrait).png Morarji Desai Independence activist and fourth Prime Minister of India (1977–79) [33][d]
1992 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.jpg Abul Kalam Azad dagger Independence activist [54][e]
 – J. R. D. Tata Industrialist and philanthropist [4]
SatyajitRay.jpg Satyajit Ray Filmmaker [4]
1997  – Gulzarilal Nanda Independence activist and two times interim Prime Minister of India [33]
 – Aruna Asaf Ali dagger Independence activist [58]
AbdulKalam.JPG A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Aerospace and Defense Scientist, eleventh President of India (2002–07) [27][59]
1998 Ms subbulakshmi 140x190.jpg M. S. Subbulakshmi Carnatic classical vocalist [60]
 – Chidambaram Subramaniam Independence activist and former Minister of Agriculture of India (1964–66) [61]
1999  – Jayaprakash Narayan dagger Independence activist and social reformer [62]
Ravi Shankar 2009 crop.jpg Ravi Shankar Hindustani classical Sitar player [63]
Amartya Sen NIH.jpg Amartya Sen Nobel laureate economist (1998) [64]
Gopinath Bordoloi.jpg Gopinath Bordoloi dagger Independence activist, first Chief Minister of Assam (1946–50) [65]
2001 Lata Mangeshkar - still 29065 crop.jpg Lata Mangeshkar Playback singer [66]
Bismillah at Concert1 (edited) 2.jpg Bismillah Khan Hindustani classical Shehnai player [67]
2008 Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (cropped).jpg Bhimsen Joshi Hindustani classical vocalist [68][69]
2013 CNRrao2.jpg C. N. R. Rao Chemist [10]
Sachin at Castrol Golden Spanner Awards (crop).jpg Sachin Tendulkar Cricketer [10]

Controversies[edit]

The Bharat Ratna has been surrounded by several controversies and multiple Public-Interest Litigations (PIL) had been filed against the conferments of the award.

Subhas Chandra Bose (1992)
In 1992, a press release was published to confer the award posthumously on Bose which was later cancelled by the Supreme Court of India in 1997.

On 23 January 1992, a press release was published by the President's Secretariat to confer the award posthumously on Subhash Chandra Bose. The decision triggered much criticism on "posthumous" declaration of the award and a Public-Interest Litigation was filed in the Calcutta High Court to revoke the award.[70] The petitioner took objection on the conferment of the award and its posthumous mention of Bose and said that honouring a personality higher than the award is "ridiculous" and it becomes an act of "carelessness" to classify such a person with past and future recipients. It also said that the award cannot be conferred to Bose posthumously as the Government of India has not officially accepted his death on 18 August 1945. The petitioner also requested the whereabouts of Bose from 18 August 1945 till date, based on the information collected by Shah Nawaz Committee 1956 and Khosla Commission 1970. The family members of Bose also expressed their unwillingness to accept the award.[71][72]

To deliver the judgement, the Supreme Court of India formed the Special Division Bench with Judge Sujata V. Manohar and G. B. Pattanaik. The Additional Solicitor General of India noted that to confer the award per statutes and rules relating to the awards of Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri, it is necessary that the name of the person should be published in The Gazette of India and should be entered in the recipients register maintained under the direction of the President of India.[2] It also noted that only an announcement was made by the press communique and the government did not proceed further to confer the award by publishing the name in The Gazette of India and by entering the name in the recipients register. Also, the then presidents of India R. Venkataraman (1987–92) and Shankar Dayal Sharma (1992–97) did not confer a Sanad (certificate) with their signature and seal.[71]

On 4 August 1997, the Supreme Court of India delivered an order that since the award has not been conferred, it cannot be cancelled and declared that the press communique should be treated as cancelled. The court declined to pass any judgement on the "posthumous" mention of Bose and his death.[71][73]

Constitutional validity (1992)

In 1992, two PILs were filed in the High Courts of India; one in the Kerala High Court on 13 February 1992 by Balaji Raghavan and another in the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Indore Bench) on 24 August 1992 by Satya Pal Anand. Both the petitioner raised a question about all the civilian awards being "Titles" within the meaning of the Article 18 (1) of the Constitution of India.[b] On 25 August 1992, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued a notice to suspend all the civilian awards till further notice.[13] A Special Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India was formed which included five judges; A. M. Ahmadi C. J., Kuldip Singh, B. P. Jeevan Reddy, N. P. Singh, and S. Saghir Ahmad. On 15 December 1995, the Special Division Bench restored the awards and delivered a judgement that the "Bharat Ratna and Padma awards are not titles within Article 18 of the Constitution of India" and suggested to be "extremely, strict about the awarding of decorations".[15]

C. N. R. Rao and Sachin Tendulkar (2014)

Following the declaration of award for C. N. R. Rao and Sachin Tendulkar in November 2013, multiple Public-Interest Litigations were filed challenging the conferment of the award. The PIL filed against Rao mentioned that other Indian scientists like Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai have contributed more than Rao and his allegation of publishing 1400 research papers is "physically impossible". It also said that Rao has proven cases of plagiarism and thus shall not be presented the award and hence it should be annulled.[74] The PIL filed against Tendulkar to the Election Commission of India under the Right to Information Act mentioned that the award bestowment was a violation of the model code of conduct. The petitioner noted that since Tendulkar was an Indian National Congress nominated Member of Rajya Sabha, the decision to award him the Bharat Ratna would influence the voters of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram where the election process was underway then.[75] Another PIL was filed against Tendulkar and a few ministers for "alleging a conspiracy to ignore" an Indian field hockey player Dhyan Chand."[76][f]

On 4 December 2013, the Election Commission of India rejected the petition stating that conferring the award on people belonging to non-poll going states did not amount to a violation of the code.[77] The various High Courts of India also rejected all the petitions raised against Rao and Tendulkar.[78]

Criticism[edit]

The conferment of Bharat Ratna has spurred much criticism over the years. It has been criticised for awarding the politicians more often and not giving adequate recognition to the personalities from other fields. As the recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister of India to the President, the then Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru (1947–64) and Indira Gandhi (1966–77, 1980–84) have been criticised for honouring themselves with the awards in 1955 and 1971 respectively.[57][79]

In 1988, the then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi (1984–89) conferred the Bharat Ratna posthumously on film actor and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. G. Ramachandran. The decision was said to have taken to influence the voters before the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1989.[80][81] It was also later criticised for awarding Ramachandran before independence activist B. R. Ambedkar and Vallabhbhai Patel who were bestowed the honour in 1990 and 1991 respectively.[82]

While Ravi Shankar was accused of lobbying for the award,[57] the decision by Indira Gandhi to posthumously honour K. Kamaraj was said to have been aimed at placating the Tamil voters for the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1977. The seventh Prime Minister V. P. Singh was also criticised for posthumously honouring B. R. Ambedkar to please Dalits.[79][80]

A few of the conferments were criticised for honouring the personalities after they received the global recognition.[83] The award for Mother Teresa was declared in 1980, a year after she was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Satyajit Ray received Academy Honorary Award in 1992 immediately followed by the Bharat Ratna in the same year.[84][85] In 1999, Amartya Sen was awarded with the Bharat Ratna, a year after his Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences of 1998. The then President K. R. Narayanan had proposed the award for Sen to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had agreed to the proposal.[86][87]

Popular demands[edit]

Though, as per the statutes for the Bharat Ratna, the recommendations for the award can only be made by the Prime Minister to the President,[16] there have been several demands from various political parties to honour their leaders. In January 2008, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L. K. Advani wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommending Singh's predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the award.[33][88] This was immediately followed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) lobbying for their leader, Jyoti Basu, former Chief Minister of West Bengal.[38] Basu, India's longest-serving chief minister, said that he would decline the honour, even if awarded.[89] Similar such demands include the Telugu Desam Party leader N. Chandrababu Naidu for N. T. Rama Rao, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati for Kanshi Ram and the Shiromani Akali Dal for Parkash Singh Badal.[90]

Per the original statutes, sportspersons were not eligible for the Bharat Ratna; however a revision of the rules in December 2011 made eligible "any field of human endeavour".[17] Subsequently, several sportspersons' names were discussed; among the most talked-about of these was field-hockey player Dhyan Chand, who was recommended multiple times for the posthumous honour.[91] In 2011, 82 members of parliament recommended Chand's name for the award to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). In January 2012, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports forwarded his name again, this time along with 2008 Summer Olympics gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra and mountaineer Tenzing Norgay.[92] Bindra had also been recommended for the award in May 2013 by the National Rifle Association of India.[93] In July 2013, the ministry again recommended Dhyan Chand.[92][94] However, in November 2013, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar became the first sports-person to receive the honour.[5] The decision to honour Tendulkar before Chand gathered much criticism for the government.[95]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Bharat Ratna ceremony is usually held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi but a special ceremony was held at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai to honour Karve on his 100th birthday on 18 April 1958.[7][8]
  2. ^ a b Per Article 18 (1) of the Constitution of India: Abolition of titles, "no title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State".[19]
  3. ^ Ramachandran who was awarded with the Padma Shri, fourth highest civilian award, in 1960 had declined the award as the invitation was written in the Devanagari script and not Tamil.[48]
  4. ^ Desai had earlier abolished the awards while he was in the office for being "worthless and politicized".[53]
  5. ^ Earlier, Abul Kalam Azad had refused the Bharat Ratna while he was Education Minister of India (1947–58) citing that the selection committee members should not themselves be recipients.[55][56][57]
  6. ^ The PIL mentioned the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Sports Minister Bhanwar Jitendra Singh and the secretary to the union home department as accused.

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