This article is written by Shraddha Jain, a student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. The author discusses Article 18 of the Indian Constitution. The main discussion of the Article is on the abolition of titles, the purpose of this abolition in the country, and some landmark judgments on this issue. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.


Article 18 of the Indian Constitution talks about the abolition of titles. This Article prohibited title recognition and conferment in our country. In 1948, a draft version of Article 12 was created, and later on, this version was edited and presented as Article 18 of the Indian Constitution. This article only applies to those titles that may have an influence on social equality and create unfairness among members of the community.

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This provision does not restrict the award and its usage to Indian nationals for their outstanding work in various fields. Even though it is mentioned in Part III of the Indian Constitution, the purpose of this Article is not to protect the fundamental rights of Indian citizens, but it seeks to limit legislative and executive action.

Provisions of Article 18 of the Indian Constitution

Article 18 consists of 4 clauses, which are as follows:

Article 18(1): The first clause is  for the state’s responsibility. Article 18 (1) prohibits all titles. It prevents the government from bestowing titles on anyone, whether a citizen or a non-citizen, apart from the titles in the fields of military and academic, for example, Paramveer, Doctor, etc. As a result, a university might bestow a title or honour on a deserving individual.

Article 18(2): The second clause and subsequent provisions are for nationals. It forbids an Indian national from taking any title from a foreign nation.

Article 18(3): It prevents an individual who is not an Indian citizen, but holds any office of profit or trust post under the Government of India, from taking any title from any foreign nation without the President’s assent.

Article 18(4): It states that no individual, whether citizen or non-citizen, possessing any office of profit or charity post under the government of India, should receive any gifts, emoluments, or office of any type from or under any foreign nation without the President’s assent.

Clauses (3) and (4) were inserted to guarantee that a non-citizen remains faithful to the government, i.e., does not violate the confidence placed in him.

Nevertheless, the modern bestowment of titles such as ‘Bharat Ratna’, ‘Padma Vibhushan’, ‘Padma Bhushan’, and ‘Padma Shri’, which were established in 1954, is claimed to be permissible under Article 18 because they just reflect the state’s appreciation of exemplary work by people in diverse spheres of activity. It should be kept in mind that Article 18 does not safeguard any fundamental rights, but rather limits executive and legislative jurisdiction.

Constitutional debate on Article 18 of the Indian Constitution

Today’s Article 18 was initially Article 12 of the drafted Indian Constitution.

Article 12 of the Draft Constitution, 1948 was as follows:

1) The state shall not bestow any titles.

(2) No Indian citizen shall receive any title from a foreign nation.

(3) No individual possessing any office of profit or trust post under the Government of India will take any gift, remuneration, rank, or office of any form from or under any foreign nation without the President’s assent.

On December 1, 1948, draft Article 12 (present Article 18) was discussed. It prohibited title recognition and conferment to any individual.

A Drafting Committee member suggested a modification to the article to specify that titles of military and academic excellence would be given exemption from the ambit of Draft Article 12. The Assembly adopted this modification without controversy.

Another participant of the assembly proposed to modify sub-section (2) to clearly indicate that the government will not acknowledge any titles bestowed by a foreign nation. He contended that, in its current form, Draft Article 12 only prevents an Indian national from taking a title and does not prevent the State from acknowledging it; furthermore, no punishment or penalties were specified for doing the same.

One of the members said that anyone who accepts such a title must be considered to have surrendered their citizenship of India. The Drafting Committee Chairman stated that the government might exercise its residuary authorities to impose a punishment for this action. The Assembly rejected the amendment.

On December 1, 1948, the amended Draft Article 12 was accepted.

What is meant by the term “titles”

A ‘title’ is anything that is attached to one’s identity as a prefix or suffix, such as Sir, Nawab, Maharaja, and so on. Titles and titular achievements must not be granted in a democratic country. It will be counterproductive to the development of social justice.

Titles refer to any inherited designations (such as Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur, Sawai, Rai Sahab, Zamindar, Taluqdar, and so on) used by people during the colonial period, and the objective of this Article 18 in our Constitution is to maintain fairness among everyone.

It excludes military and scholarly professionals, as well as civilian honours such as Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and Bharat Ratna, with the limitation that no one will ever use them as a suffix or prefix to their names.

What was the need for introducing Article 18 of the Indian Constitution

  • Titles are used to differentiate an individual’s rank by pinning inferiority complexes upon other people. As a result, the constituent assembly agreed to eliminate such inequality and drafted this article, which has four provisions.
  • It would endanger the current societal harmony and unity. The nationalists decided unanimously to eliminate titles in order to protect the aim of a democratic republic.
  • Honours and titular achievements should not be established in democratic government. This is in the development of a nation that aims to achieve political, cultural, and economic justice and aspires to become really democratic. There is really no place for a handful of people to possess titles, which might establish artificial disparities among the members of an equal community.
  • If people have been given titles, they will create concerns that will prevent the establishment of good interpersonal relationships.

Punishment under Article 18 of the Indian Constitution

  • Accepting a title is a breach of a regulation, but it is not an offence.
  • By using Article 226, an individual may impose a restriction on the state through the writ of Mandamus.
  • The recourse is only applicable for the enforcement of constitutionally protected rights.

Landmark judgments under Article 18 of the Indian Constitution

In the judgement of Balaji Raghavan v. Union of India (1995), the petitioners questioned the legitimacy of national awards like the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri, and asked the Court to prohibit the Indian government from bestowing these honours. They have argued that the National Awards come under the purview of titles under Article 18 of the Constitution of India and hence contravene Article 18(1).

The petitioners are of the belief that the term ‘title’ must be granted the broadest possible interpretation and range in order to give effect to the statutory interpretation, provided that the only exceptions to this rule are military and technical excellence. It was also asserted that these honours are being excessively misappropriated, that the reason for which they were given has been undermined, and that they’re being given to people who are not eligible for them.

Balaji Raghavan brought a writ of mandamus in the High Court of Madras under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution to prohibit the Government of India from bestowing any of the major awards.

The issue that went to the Hon’ble Supreme Court was—“Whether the honours such as Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri come under the purview of “titles” within the definition of Article 18(1) of the Indian Constitution?

The Supreme Court ruled that the notion of equality doesn’t really require that excellence be denied and also that people who have done great service to the nation be denied awards. Article 51A(j) of the Indian Constitution exhorts every individual “to aspire for expertise in all fields of collective and individual interaction, so that the nation continually increases to higher levels of undertaking and accomplishment“. 

National Awards such as the Bharat Ratna, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri do not violate the concept of equality protected by the provisions of the Indian Constitution. These National Honours are not ‘titles’ in the spirit of Article 18 and hence do not violate Article 18 of the Indian Constitution. To prevent abuse of this power, the Court advised that the Prime Minister should appoint a high-level commission, in agreement with the President, to guarantee that only meritorious individuals receive the honours.                       

In the case of Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India (2017), a complaint was lodged in this matter questioning the usage of the term ‘senior advocate’ before the names of the advocates. The Supreme Court ruled that this is not the title, but rather a demarcation, and therefore does not violate Article 18 of the Indian Constitution.

Section 16 of the Advocates Act 1961 establishes the foundation for such a division. Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act of 1961 states that an advocate could be classified as a senior advocate if the Supreme Court or the High Court feels he possesses the necessary skill, expertise, and understanding of the law. The Court granted orders in all of these instances and established a regular body called the ‘Committee for Senior Advocate Designation’.

Position in other Nations

United State of America: Article I Section 9 Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution contains a similar prohibition that forbids anyone from holding positions of profit or trust after accepting gifts of any kind from a foreign government without the consent of Congress. The American Constitution, on the other hand, follows the tradition of periodically granting civil honours, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Canada: The Order of Canada was created by the Canadian government in the year 1967 and is given for a broad range of achievements such as farming, ballet, science, philanthropy, and so on. There are three different levels of membership in the Order of Canada: Companions, Officers, and Members.

France: The Order of Academic Palms, Order of Agricultural Merit, and Order of Arts and Letters were adopted by France to give honour for excellence in education, writing, technology, rendering service in agricultural activities, artistic and other creative activities. 


The bestowal of awards generates inequality between recipients and ordinary people, but this also promotes undesirable rivalry among winners. It is important to recognise people for their contributions to empower them. Article 18(1) was enacted to stop the corrupt and immoral conduct of citizens, which makes them go about currying favours with power in order to get certain differentiation. Awards not only honour accomplishment, but also many other traits such as skill, difficulty, and effort. Giving awards to citizens is constitutionally legitimate and does not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. If an honour is misused, the defaulter’s reward will be revoked, and some penalty may be imposed. The government should determine the legality of titles on a regular basis. The purpose of awarding titles should be clarified.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What is the distinction between titles and awards?

At the time of British administration, the titles were given to people who pleased Britishers with their administrative abilities. Individuals are honoured for their services to the advancement of art, literature, and technology, as well as for exceptional public service. While rewards are given solely on the basis of a person’s performance without regard to religion, class, gender, or colour, British rulers conferred titles on certain groups.

Why is it necessary to give an award to someone?

Individuals would be motivated to work more for the betterment of the nation if they were rewarded. As a result, a system of honours and decorations has been established to recognise excellence in the execution of certain responsibilities.

What are the criteria for selecting people for ‘Padma awards’?

The Union Government established a ‘High Level Review Committee,’ led by the Vice-President, to look into current regulations and determine the method for choosing people for “Padma awards” in order to increase respect for such honours. This Commission proposed the formation of State-level Committees to provide suggestions to the Union. The proposed names will be considered by the Union government and a commission composed of the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Ministry, and the Secretary to the President of India. Following that, the completed names must be presented to the Prime Minister’s office and then to the President. There are no rules governing ‘Bharat Ratna’ awards.


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