A Supreme Court bench headed by CJI H L Dattu on Friday sought responses of the Centre and state governments on a PIL by social activist Niranjan Bhatwal seeking a declaration that the official name of this country is Bharat, not India. What does the Constitution say? And the government?
What does the Constitution call this country?
Article 1(1) says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” This is the only provision in the Constitution on how this country be called for official and unofficial purposes.
How did the Constitution come to have this provision?
On September 18, 1949, the Constituent Assembly deliberated upon the ‘namakaran’ or naming ceremony for the newborn nation. Various suggestions were made: Bharat, Hindustan, Hind, Bharatbhumi, Bharatvarsh. In the end, the Assembly resolved as follows: “Article 1. Name and territory of the Union. 1.1. India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
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Was there any dissent against the passage of Article 1.1?
Yes. Before the Constitution was officially adopted on November 26, 1949, some members of the Constituent Assembly objected to the punctuation marks. H V Kamath moved an amendment saying Article 1.1 should read: “Bharat or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.” There were other objections on phraseology, but Article 1.1 ultimately got through in its original form.
What is the basis of moving the PIL in the Supreme Court?
Advocate Ajay G Majithia argued that Article 1.1 must be interpreted keeping in view the Constituent Assembly’s intention, which wanted to name the country ‘Bharat’. According to the PIL, had the makers of our constitution wanted to continue with ‘India’, they would have had no reason to insert ‘Bharat’. ‘India’ was used just for reference, in order to repeal the Government of India Act, 1935, and the Indian Independence Act, 1947, says the petition. It also cites Sanskrit literature and scriptures to argue that this country has been known as ‘Bharat’ since for time immemorial.
So what has the petition sought?
It wants the Supreme Court to declare that this country will be called ‘Bharat’, not ‘India’, for all official and unofficial purposes of the central and state governments, and all other entities like NGOs, corporates etc.
What has been the stand of the government been?
The Home Ministry has responded to a few RTI applications in the past wherein applicants had sought to know the official name of this country. In one response, the Ministry had said “no information on the subject”. In another, it had reproduced Article 1.1.