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There is no ‘President of Bharat’—G20 Banquet Invite Must be Rectified

S.N. Sahu |
Apart from presenting an incongruous mix of languages, the invitation violates the Constitution and undermines the solemnity of the President’s office.
There is no ‘President of Bharat’—G20 Banquet Invite Must be Rectified

Image Courtesy: PTI

It is unprecedented and extraordinary that invites for a formal high-profile dinner being hosted on September 9 for world leaders during the forthcoming G20 Summit in New Delhi has been issued in the name of the ‘President of Bharat’ instead of ‘President of India.’ In the history of our republic, ‘President of India’ has never been replaced by ‘President of Bharat’. The phrase ‘Bharat ke Rashtrapti’ is used in Hindi texts. This Hindi version denoting the constitutionally enshrined term ‘President of India’ has always been used in invitations or other documents prepared in the Hindi language.

Therefore, using the term ‘President of Bharat’ in the English version of the invite is quite perplexing. It is unclear if President Draupadi Murmu formally approved using these words on an invitation card sent on her behalf and in her name, but leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are circulating it widely. On such occasions, the Ministry of External Affairs prepares the invites after getting a green signal from Rashtrapti Bhavan.

RSS Chief’s Statement on Bharat

It is worth noting that ‘President of Bharat’ has been used instead of ‘President of India’ two days after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat appealed for calling India Bharat on the ground that Bharat has been continuing since ancient times and must be taken into the future. Possibly, Bhagwat’s statement was in light of the innovative acronym, INDIA, which the alliance of 26 Opposition parties—the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance—has called itself. There is a likelihood that this is so because in a booklet handed to G20 invitees as well, the government has referred to “Bharat, the mother of democracy”. And leaders of the BJP have also used the term “Republic of Bharat” instead of the constitutional norm, Republic of India (in English).

True or not, it goes against the provisions of the Constitution of India that deal with the President and the oath of office taken by the incumbent of the highest office of the republic.

Constitutional Provisions in English and Hindi

Article 1 of the Constitution states, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” Article 52 provides for a President of India. The exact words are, “There shall be a President of India”, and the Article mandates all concerned to use the term ‘President of India’ in any document prepared in English.

Of course, the text of Article 52 in Hindi states: “Bharat ka Rashtrapati-Bharat ka ek Rashtrapati hoga [President of India-There shall be a President of India.” Therefore, in all fairness, the Hindi text of the invite should have mentioned ‘Bharat ka Rashtrapati’ and the English version ‘President of India’.

To issue English and Hindi versions of invites from the President of India has been part and parcel of the ethos of Rashtrapati Bhawan right from the tenure of the first President, Rajendra Prasad. This enduring ethos, rooted in the provisions of the Constitution, was never altered by any President who takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Oath of Office of President

Article 60 of the Constitution prescribes the text of the oath of office taken by the one elected to be President of India. Its English version uses the words ‘President of India’ and not ‘President of Bharat’. The Hindi version of the oath uses the term ‘Bharat ke Rashtrapati’, but the terminology ‘President of Bharat’ is not mentioned in the Hindi text.

Therefore, to refer to the President as “President of Bharat” violates the text of the oath of the President of India.

President of Bharat’ used in the English text of the invite violates Article 52 of the Constitution, which prescribes, “There shall be a President of India.”

The President of India is oath-bound to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”. It is rather sad and shocking that even the text of the invitation of the President of India for a dinner programme is neither in accordance with Article 52 nor the text of the oath enshrined in Article 60. Therefore, the President of India, Draupadi Murmu, must act by her oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and instruct the concerned officials to rectify the errors in the invite.

Indeed, the error is so glaring that it appears to have been made in a calculated manner, aiming to violate the Constitution. Why should the President of India brook the undermining of the Constitution in an invite issued in her name? How can it be justified because INDIA is also an acronym that twenty-odd Opposition parties in an alliance call themselves? The Constitution is supreme and must be defended so that the might and majesty of our Republic are upheld.

The author served as Officer on Special Duty to President of India KR Narayanan. The views are personal.

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