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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

An Honourable Judgement

A Supreme Court ruling aims to restore the sanctity of the nation's highest awards

An Honourable Judgement
An Honourable Judgement
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
The lengthening lists—crammed with names that ring no bell at all—tell their own sorry tale of nepotism, political patronage and downright chicanery. In 1964, India's four national civilian awards went to only 33 eminent personages. Ten years later, with Indira Gandhi bent on riding roughshod over national institutions, as many as 84 names made it to the coveted roll of honour. In 1988, the figure did come down to 44. And stayed there in 1989, too.

But all hopes of a recovery of the sanctity of the awards were quickly dashed as politics took over. Who you knew became far more important than what you did. So from 1990 to 1992, more than 100 persons won the awards each year, with a large number of virtual nonentities rubbing shoulders with true-blue titans. As an inevitable result, the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awards, once recognised as the ultimate accolade, lost their sheen.

But, mercifully, vigorous efforts are now on to recapture the lost glory of the awards. On the coming Republic Day, the awards will be announced again after a three-year break necessitated by a protracted court case. In two separate but concurring judgements in response to several writ petitions questioning the constitutional validity of the awards, the Supreme Court has ruled that they are not titles and are, therefore, not at variance with Article 18(1) of the Constitution. But there is much that is wrong with the manner in which the awards are doled out, says the 30-page judgement delivered on December 15 by a Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Justice Kuldip Singh, Justice B.P. Jeevan, Justice N.P. Singh and Justice Saghir S. Ahmed. For one, the Home Ministry hasn't prescribed any limit on the number of awards to be granted in a year or the maximum number permissible under each category.

In a...

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