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India or Bharat? - Legal Analysis

Updated: Jan 20

"If you want to call this country Bharat, go right ahead and call it Bharat. If somebody chooses to call this country India, let him call it India. We will not interfere"

The present study focuses on the plea filed by a person named Namah in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India which sought to amend Article 1 of the constitution to the effect that it mentions the name of the country as Bharat/Hindustan. The Delhi-based petitioner through his counsel Raj Kishor Choudhary argued that the word “India” is of foreign origin and further added that the same could be traced back to the word “Indica” in Greek. While hearing the plea virtually, Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said that “Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution. India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution”.

However, the plea explicitly ought to strike down the name “India'' from the constitution of India as the petitioner’s counsel contended that the term “Bharat'' was closely linked to our struggle for freedom and desire for independence because the cry made during the freedom struggle was “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. The objective of the petition was to instill a deeper sense of pride in the hearts of all the citizens for their nationality and get over the colonial past. Also, India is known as Bharat will justify the struggle and sacrifices made by our freedom fighters who gave their lives for their country. The petition stated that it is the perfect time to recognize the country by its authentic name when many cities have been renamed to confer with the Indian ethnicity like Allahabad had been renamed to be known as Prayagraj. Furthermore, to strengthen their arguments, the petitioner’s counsel also referred to the 1948 Constituent Assembly Debate about the Article 1 of the then Constitution draft, in which there were many upvotes to name the country as “Bharat'' or “Hindustan''.

The Supreme Court wasn’t very much convinced by the arguments of the petitioners and the CJI-led Bench asked the petitioner’s lawyer that why had they approached the apex Court and they also read out to them Article 1 of the constitution, which mentions India is also known as Bharat. Hon’ble Chief Justice Bobde dismissed the petition by stating that India is already known as Bharat in the Constitution, but the petitioner’s counsel urged the court to grant him to make a representation before the appropriate ministries. The apex court said that the following petition is sent as a representation to the Union Government for its consideration.

A similar issue to rename India as Bharat was brought in a petition before the Bench led at that time by former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur in 2016 which was dismissed by the court. Hon’ble Chief Justice Thakur correctly at that time remarked that every citizen has the right to choose whether they want to call their country “India” or “Bharat” and both the names are constitutionally valid as codified under Article 1 of the Constitution of India. Also, he stated that it is not a matter of judicial intervention to decide or to dictate what name a citizen shall call their country. Previous to this petition in 2014, Yogi Adityanath, the BJP leader had also proposed that Article 1 of the constitution should be amended for which he introduced the Constitution(Amendment)Bill, 2014. The private member’s Bill introduced for debate by the controversial leader aimed to replace the word “India” with “Hindustan” in the Constitution. Article 1 of the Indian Constitution states “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The Bill introduced by Adityanath argued Article 1 to be read as “Bharat, that is Hindustan…” The Bill stated that “The word “India” denotes the symbol of slavery and thus deserves to be omitted from our Constitution,”. This bill was never passed. Such instances bring to light the fact that there have been many attempts since 1948 to change the name of the country but none of them succeeded.

Coming to the main point of this issue, whether “India” should or shouldn’t be renamed to “Bharat”, should be left to the discretion of the people as to what name they want to call their country by, as India has always been a land of different ethnicities and cultures, and it is nearly impossible to find a single name that confers with every citizen and leaves no room for second thoughts. The constitution has accommodated both the names within it which undoubtedly means that India is also known as Bharat and hence there is no need to officially amend or strike down the name “India” from the constitution. Also, we have been known as Indians around the world for almost a century now, and striking off the name “India” would be an irrational move at an international level too.

However, there might be a sense of nationalism in the name “Bharat” to many citizens, a lot of them. The younger generations have adapted themselves to be known as Indians first and changing the name of the country to “Bharat” would be unfair to them. The constitution is always looked upon to protect the rights of all its citizens and preferring some over the others is against the spirit of the constitution. Such a change might be an infringement to the Right to Equality guaranteed as a fundamental right under the constitution itself. Further, to change the name of the country from “India” to any other name would be undesirable as well as an unfeasible step. If the government or the judiciary chooses to change the name of the country, it will also have to amend that name on every official building, emblem, currency and every official document that defines the country and its citizens, namely, all the Courts of law in the country, the Reserve Bank of India, the Securities Exchange Board of India, etc. Such a step would be very exhaustive, hectic, and expensive to the country. Further, it will also leave scope for bias as every citizen might not want to change the name of their country, as changing the name of the country indirectly means changing a part of one’s identity.

Article 1 of the Constitution of India names the country as Bharat and India both and it can be its citizens' choice as to what they shall call their country.


Yashjeet Singh Mehta is currently a student at Delhi Metropolitan Education.

They can be contacted at yjeet1@gmail.com

Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair


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