Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered Brahmanandam and Mohan Babu to return Padma shri in a week, due to prefixing of award ‘Padma Shree’ to their names in cinema title ‘Dhenikaina Ready’.
Prefixing the awards (‘Padma Shri’,’Padma Bhushan’ or ‘Padama Vibhushan’) to their names, as if they were titles, in gross violation of the instructions issued by Supreme Court of India.
Tollywood myths Action King Mohan Babu and humor star Brahmanandam has been awarded this earlier for their contribution in Entertainment section. Now, for being screened their names along with the “Padma Shree” tag before their name while screening the titles.
Supreme Court 1995: Balaji Raghavan and S P Anand vs Union of India
Reflection of these questions can be seen in the Supreme Court’s 1995 judgment in Balaji Raghavan and S P Anand vs Union of India. It had said, “During the British occupation, India has had a spate of title hunters who brought degradation and much harm to healthy public life. The title hunters have always been considered a menace to the safe growth of a society.
Though the Padma awards are not titles but in case these awards are given at the whims of the authorities, without a proper criteria and method of selection, they are bound to do more harm to the society than the title-seekers did during the British regime.” Many are genuine achievers and conferment of the awards on them remains beyond the realm of question. But several awardees raise more than a question about their credentials.
Disgusted over indiscriminate conferment of Padma awards, Acharya J B Kriplani had in 1969 moved ‘The Conferment of Decorations on Persons (Abolition) Bill’ in Parliament. N K P Salve, despite agreeing with Kriplani’s concern, had opposed the bill.
Salve had said, “I am aware that the decorations have been bestowed indiscriminately on businessmen and others. In fact, one of my suggestions is that any decoration awarded to any person who is found guilty of any ‘commercial offence’ should be withdrawn. We should be extremely strict about the awarding of decorations. In fact, it is within my knowledge that some of them have put their decorations to commercial exploitation. In fact, a certain managing director of a company wrote a letter to me . On his letterhead was written ‘Ex-Rai Bahadur, Padma Vibhushan’ so and so.”
The Supreme Court in its 1995 judgment disagreed with the petitioners that these awards were akin to titles, which stood abolished by Article 18 of the Constitution.
Amicus curiae Santosh Hegde, who later became a judge of the SC, argued that the Constitution did not envisage state recognition of meritorious services through conferment of awards. But he suggested that to avoid criticism of creating a separate class of awardees, they must not use the awards as either a prefix or suffix to their names.
The court agreed with Hegde’s suggestion but was not averse to conferment of the awards. “The theory of equality does not mandate that merit should not be recognized. In this context, we may refer to the various clauses of Article 51A and specifically clause (j) which exhorts every citizen ‘to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement’. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be a system of awards and decorations to recognize excellence in the performance of these duties,” the court said.
Should there be a premium put on the awards by limiting the numbers of awardees to a deserving few rather than over a 100 every year? Should the government also put out the reasons why some known performers were rejected or not considered for these awards?
The court had answered this too. “There are no limitations prescribed for the maximum number of awards that can be granted in a given year or the maximum number that is permissible in each category. The Prime Minister’s Committee on Awards & Honours, 1948 had recommended certain limitations in terms of numbers but these have not been incorporated in the extant guidelines,” it said.
While advocating a transparent selection process, the court said, “We may only say that the committee may keep in view our anxiety that the number of awards should not be so large as to dilute their value. We may point out that in some countries, including US, the total number of awards to be given is restricted.”
In June 2003, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, issued a circular letter to all Padma awardees, calling upon them to desist from using the Padma titles either as prefixes or suffixes to their names. My inquiries go to show that this circular was issued because of a very large number of cases involving misuse of the Padma Awards. In many cases, the awardees are not the offenders: it is the organisers of public functions who violate the rules prohibiting the use of Padma – as prefix or suffix in the belief that this lends added prestige to the function.
The text of the M.H.A. letter, written by Yashwant Raj, Joint Secretary, is as follows:
“I am directed to say that the constitutional validity of the Padma Awards was challenged in two public interest writ petitions. The matter was adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court, which gave its verdict on 15th December 1995.
“While upholding the constitutional validity of the Padma Awards, the Supreme Court had directed that the awards should not be used as suffixes or prefixes. The relevant observations contained in the judgment of the Supreme Court are as follows:
” `The National Awards do not amount to `Titles’ within the meaning of Article 18(1) (of the Constitution), and they should not be used as suffixes or prefixes. If this is done, the defaulter should forfeit the National Award conferred on him or her by following the procedure laid down in Regulation 10 of each of the four Notifications creating these National Awards’.”
“I am to request you to kindly abide by the direction of the Supreme Court so that the Padma Award is not used as a suffix or a prefix or as a title in letter heads, invitation cards, posters, books etc.”
In December 6, 2012 Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar of A.P. High Court on Thursday ordered notices on a writ petition filed seeking a direction to the Union Government to cancel the Padmashri title conferred on cine actors Mohan Babu and Brahmanandam. The Judge was dealing with a writ petition filed by Indrasena Reddy stating that the actors had violated the rules about the title. The Judge adjourned the matter for two weeks after ordering the notices.