Written by Khyati Relan

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Abolition of title is mentioned in part III of the Indian Constitution. Article 18 of the Indian constitution deals with the “Abolition of Titles”.


Not being military or academic awards, the state shall not give any title to any individual being it Indian or foreigner under the state services. (Article 18(1))

Article 18 of Indian Constitution prohibits the state from the conferring any title to a citizen or a foreigner this prohibition does not include military or academic distinction. For example, using designation like CA, MBBS, and IAS before the name is not void and it is not violative of Article 18.

Indian citizen shall not receive any title from any foreign country Article 18(2).

.It means that if any country wants to give the award to an Indian citizen, they shall not take that. It depends upon the parliament what they will do if an individual accepts the title in contravention to Article 18(2). The Parliament can exercise its residuary power to make laws regarding violation of article 18(2).

The foreign nationals under the service of the state shall not receive any title from a foreign state without the prior consent of president. (Article 18(3)).

If any foreigner holds any office of profit or trust under the state cannot accept any title from any foreign state without the consent of the president of India. Example- Salary to Indian diplomats retired from UN, WTO, and IMF is allowed. If any activity is performed in contravention to Article 18 shall be subject to punishment in accordance with the law. (Article 18(4)).


Ambedkar explained within the Constituent Assembly that Article 18 didn’t create a justiciable right:

“The non-acceptance of titles may be a condition of continued citizenship, it’s not a right, it’s a requirement imposed upon the person who if he continues to be the citizen of this country, then he must abide by certain conditions.”

“One of the conditions is that he must not accept a title, if he did, it might be open for Parliament to make a decision by law what should be done to persons who violate the provisions of this text. One of the penalties could also be that he may lose the proper of citizenship.”


The purpose of the abolition of the title is to maintain social equality and the purpose of equality is to avoid harmful generalizations. If titles are given to the people then there will be insecurities among general people and it would not lead to the built strong relationship among people.

It would hamper the peace, unity of the society. It was a unanimous decision taken by the nationalist to abolish titles in order to maintain purpose of democracy. Even though it is mentioned in part 3 of the Indian constitution as an extension to the right to equality it does not secure any fundamental right. Conferring of titles is violative of the principle of equality guaranteed by article 14.

Titles like Rai Bahadur, Sawai, Rai Sahab, Zamindar, Taluqdar etc were ubiquitous in medieval and British India. All these titles were abolished under article 18 of the constitution. Article 18 prohibits only innate titles of nobility.

 Democracy shouldn’t create titles and titular glories. In the creation of a society which seeks to work out political, social and economic equality and thereby aspires to become truly democratic, there is no room for a couple of individuals to hold titles thus creating artificial distinctions among members of an equivalent society


In the British era, these titles were given to the people who impress Britishers by their administration work. Awards are given to people for their services towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of public service of the highest order.

While giving awards are given on the basis of the work done by the person without any discrimination on the basis of religion caste, sex a race whereas Britishers gave these titles before independence to some specific the community in order to create hatred among people and to break the unity among the people.

The awards though are not prohibited but they cannot be used as prefix or suffix. All the awards given for doing extraordinary work in the field of academics is not included in titles. The constitutional validity of awards

These awards were inducted in 1954, Government of India introduced 4 awards, Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri for exceptional services in any field including public service. Acharya Kriplani strongly protested against the award of such decoration, it was abolished in 1977 by Janta government but again revived in 1980 by congress government.


Balaji Raghavan v. Union of India (1996) 1 SCC 361.[1]

Facts – it was noticed that the awards were misused by the awardees by using the awards as titles qualifying their names. In light of the events of misuse of National awards, the Constitutionality of the awards was challenged as violative of Article 18 of the Constitution.

Issue- An issue raised was whether the Awards like  Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are “Titles” within the meaning of Article 18(1) of the Constitution of India or not.

The petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution in High Court of Madras by Balaji Raghavan, by way of a writ of mandamus, to prevent the Union of India from conferring any of the National Awards.

 The issue went to the Hon’ble Supreme Court

Petitioner – The terms ‘title’ and ‘distinction’ is nowhere defined in the Article18. The National Awards make a distinction according to rank, hence the conferment is violative of Article 14.

Respondent – Awards had degenerated to rewards to those who serve the political ends of the Government. The word ‘title’ in Article 18(1) is used in an expansive sense to include awards, distinctions, orders, decorations or titles, except military and academic distinctions.

It was said that National Awards do not confer titles of nobility, cannot be prefixed or suffixed, hence not prohibited. Also, many other countries follow the practice of conferring awards for laudable services rendered by its citizens.

Mr K.T. Shah said that Conferring of titles offended against fundamental principles of equality. He further said that distinction should be made between the titles which are heritable and thereby create inequality and titles given by governments for the purpose of rewarding merit.


The National Awards are not violative of the principles of equality mentioned in Article 14 as guaranteed by the provisions of the Constitution.

The theory of equality does not mandate that merit should not be recognized and citizens who have done exceptional work for the country should not be awarded

 Article 51A(j)[2] exhorts every citizen “to strive towards excellence altogether spheres of individual and collective activity, in order that the state constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.” 

Awarding people would offer them stimulation to work more for the benefit of society. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be a system of awards and decorations to acknowledge excellence within the performance of those duties. The Supreme Court gave direction regarding the procedure to be adopted before granting awards.

The National Awards don’t amount to “titles” within the meaning of Article 18(1) and that they shouldn’t be used as suffixes or prefixes. No award should be conferred except on the recommendation of the National Committee and approval of the Prime Minister and the President of India must be there. Kuldeep Singh, J., said that conferment of Padma awards without any foolproof method of selection will cause favouritism, nepotism and even corruption.

Indira Jaising v. Supreme court of India [3]

In this case, a petition was filed regarding use of the designation like senior advocate before the name of an advocate.

It was held by the Supreme Court that it is not the title it is merely a distinction and thus it is not violative of Article 18 of the Indian constitution.

Section 16 of Advocate Act 1961[4] lays down the framework to be passed for such distinction. Section 16(2) of advocate act 1961 enunciate that an advocate can be designated as senior advocate if the supreme court or high the court believes that he has ability, experience and knowledge in law and he is suitable for this distinction. The court issued direction for all these matters and appointed a permanent committee “committee for designation of senior advocate”.


The conferment of awards causes discrimination not only between awardees and ordinary citizens but they also create unhealthy competition between awardees inter se, but it is necessary to award citizens for their contribution to emboldening them. Clause 1 of Article 18 was introduced to abolish the corroding, corrupting practice which makes individuals go about currying favour with authority to get particular distinctions. Awards not only acknowledge success also they recognize many other qualities likeability, struggle, efforts etc. Awarding citizens is constitutionally valid and it does not violate article 14. In case of any misuse of awards defaulter then his award will be forfeited and some punishment can also be given. The legislature should decide from time to time the validity of titles. The motive to give titles should be clarified  


  1. M Laxmikant, Indian polity, 6th edition, McGrew Hill Education (India) private limited, 2019,
  2. MP Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 8th edition, LexisNexis, 2019,1400.
  3. Dr J.N. Pandey, Constitutional law of India, 55th edition, Central Law Agency, 2018, 206.
  4. P.M. BAKSHI, The Constitution of India, Universal Law publication Co. Pvt. Ltd., 4th edition, 1997,27.
  5. [1] (AIR 1996 SC 770, at 778: (1996) 1 SCC 361.
  6. [2] INDIA CONST.  art. 51A(J).
  7. [3] AIR 2017 SC 5017 (FB).
  8. [4] Advocate Act 1961,No.16,Senior Advocate,1961(India).


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