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NEW DELHI: Every Indian has the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’ and the Supreme Court has no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country, the apex court said on Friday.
“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,” Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur observed.
Saying this, the Bench, also comprising Justice U.U. Lalit, threw out a ‘public interest’ petition seeking a declaration from the apex court that the Republic be called Bharata instead of India.
“Go file a PIL, which is constructive… something, which will help us do some good for the poor of this nation… don’t come to us with these emotional issues,” Chief Justice Thakur told social activist Niranjan Bhatwal from Maharashtra.
Saying this, Chief Justice Thakur dismissed the petition, which was entertained just a year ago by an earlier Bench led by his predecessor Justice H.L. Dattu, which had even asked the Centre and all the States to file their response.
“At least, let us hear the response from the government,” Mr. Bhatwal’s lawyer continued to insist.
“What response? There is no need for any response… we are not inclined to intervene in this matter and there is no question of any responses, that’s it,” Chief Justice Thakur shot down the request.
The petition had sought a clarification on the phrase — “India, that is, Bharat shall be a Union of States” — used in Article 1 of the Indian Constitution. It the word ‘India’ is not a literal translation of the word ‘Bharata.’ Besides the country, both historically and in the scriptures, is known as ‘Bharata’.
It contended that the public should have an “unambiguous understanding” that the country’s name is ‘Bharata.’ Mr. Bhatwal argued that ‘India’ was a name coined during the colonial-era.
It said that the Constituent Assembly had debated many names for the new-born Republic, and some of them were “Bharat, Hindustan, Hind and Bharatbhumi or Bharatvarsh and names of that kind”.
“The country has one principal name, which is historically significant, that is ‘Bharat’. The first Article of the Constitution of India states that ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’, implicitly codifying ‘Bharat’ name for the Republic of India,” the petition contended.
It wants the government to confirm whether the name ‘India’ was incorporated merely for the limited purpose of recognition of the Republic by other countries.