Article 18 of Indian constitution talks about the abolition of titles.
(1) No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State.
(2) No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign State.
(3) No person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit or trust under the State, accept without the consent of the President any title from any foreign State.
“Article 18 of Indian constitution” Clause (1) prohibits the conferment of titles. Military and academic distincttions are exempted from the prohibition. Clause (2) prohibits a citizen of India from accepting any title from a foreign State. Clause (3) provides that a now Citizen who holds any office of profit or trust under the State shall not accept, Without the consent of the President, any title from any foreign State. Clause (4) provides that no person -citizen or non-citizen -holding any office of profit or trust under the State, shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present or emolument or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.
The corresponding provision of the US Constitution reads as follows:
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign State.
It will be noted that this article does not, like Articles 17 and 23, provide that the breach of any obligation will be an offence punishable in accordance with law:
Therefore, it appears permissible to argue that it is the mere prescription or prohibition observable and enforceable by the persons and bodies concerned merely as a matter of political obligation to the democratic State under this article and not as an obligation entailing penal consequences for which punishments can be prescribed under Article 35.
The eminent constitutional lawyer, Sir Ivor Jennings, describing the nature of obligation created by Article 18 of the Indian constitution, observes:
The rule in ‘Article 18 of Indian constitution’ incorrectly summarised by the marginal note as abolition of titles, that no title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State, is apparently part of a ’right to equality’. It seems to be no breach of the right to equality if Sri John Brown becomes Dr John Brown, or General John Brown, or Pandit John Brown, or Mr Justice Brown or Rotarian John Brown, or even Sri John Brown, M.B.E., or if he rolls around a gold plated car of loads his wife with jewellery and silk sarees; but if, like the present lecturer, he becomes an impecunious knight, the right to equality is broken. In whom is this right vested? It cannot be Sir John Brown; it is neither in rem nor in personam, neither corporeal nor incorporeal. It is in fact not a right at all, but a restriction on executive and legislative power.
Sir Ivor Jennings was looking at Article 18 of Indian constitution only in terms of jural relations. He did not realise the amount of cleavage and division that was created in the Indian Society by the conferment of titles on Indians by British rulers. The Constitution, as its Preamble states, wanted to rebuild a cohesive and integrated society by providing for equality of status. This is what Article 18 of Indian constitution does besides Article 17.
In 1954, the Government of India introduced four awards namely, Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri for exceptional and distinguished service in any field including public service. These awards were abolished in 1977 but were reinstated in 1980. Their validity was challenged in the court under Article 18 of Indian constitution on the ground of their inconsistency with that article. After perusing the constitutional history and the intent behind these awards the court came to the conclusion that they did not conflict with Article 18 of Indian Constitution because they did not amount to titles within the meaning of that article. It held that they could not be added as suffix or prefix to the names of the awardees and if so added they could be forfeited. The court also noted indiscriminate conferment of these awards without any clear guidelines. Therefore, it advised that a committee under the Prime Minister consisting among others of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and the leader of the opposition in consultation with the President of India should nominate persons for these awards.
(4) No person holding any office of profit or trust under the State shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.
V.N Shukhla’s Constitution of India 12th Edition
Mahendra Pal Singh
Eastern Book Company