Can the government really remove the name ‘India’? What the Constitution says

Shunning the name ‘India’ needs the Constitution to be amended. This can be a fairly straightforward process, or it could need the consent of at least half the states, depending on the nature of the amendment.
Can the government really remove the name ‘India’? What the Constitution says
Can the government really remove the name ‘India’? What the Constitution says
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Amid wide speculation that the Union government is likely to soon introduce a Bill to remove the term ‘India’ from the Constitution, a dinner invite sent out in the name of the ‘President of Bharat’ has triggered a huge row. The invite for the dinner event, to be hosted by President Droupadi Murmu during the G20 summit in Delhi and managed by the Ministry of External Affairs, was sent out to various world leaders. Instead of the usual term 'President of India’, it was sent out in the name of ‘President of Bharat’. This is being seen by many as a step towards ‘renaming’ the country from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’, in the context of the Narendra Modi-led Union government emphasising lately that it wants to ‘liberate’ Indians from ‘colonial baggage’ through moves such as renaming Rajpath as Kartavya Path and adopting a new Naval Ensign

At the same time, a few Opposition leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have even suggested that the BJP-led Union government wants to ‘change’ the nation’s name from India to Bharat, because of the I.N.D.I.A. bloc of parties choosing the same name for their alliance. Regardless of the reasons, if the speculation over such a proposal is indeed true, it still doesn’t amount to a ‘renaming’ of the country. India already bears the name Bharat as well, as per the Constitution, and this is also reflected in official communication. The very first Article of the Constitution of India, pertaining to the name and territory of the Union, says: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The official name(s) of the country were decided after much debate by members of the Constituent Assembly who drafted the Constitution. If shunning the name ‘India’ is on the agenda, it would require the Union government to introduce a Bill proposing to amend Article 1 of the Constitution. 

Amending the Constitution can be a straightforward process, or it could take a lot of work, requiring the consent of a majority of state Assemblies. It all depends on the nature of the amendment. Article 368 lays down the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution, and the procedure to do so. Some of the provisions of the Constitution can be amended merely by passing a Bill in the Parliament, like any other legislation. This is when the amendment is exempt from the purview of Article 368. 

But for other provisions — including Article 1 — an amendment can be made only if the Bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament by a majority of the total membership of the House, and by a majority of at least two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting.

However, Article 368 also lists certain provisions of the Constitution that can be amended only if the Bill is also ratified by at least half the state assemblies. Article 1 is not part of this list, and does not need to be ratified by the state assemblies.

But when the amendment is related to the lists in the Seventh Schedule (which divides powers to legislate on various matters between the Union and state governments under three lists: Union, State and Concurrent), the representation of states in Parliament, Article 368 itself, or certain other provisions, then, at least 50% of the state Assemblies will have to pass resolutions consenting to the amendment, before it is sent for the President’s assent. 

In the case of amending Article 1 however, as explained earlier, a Bill has to be passed in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by a majority of the total membership of the House, as well as by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting. On receiving the President's assent after this, the Constitution can be amended in accordance with the Bill. 

There is a lot of apprehension about the upcoming special session of Parliament, with buzz going around that the Union government could bring in major Bills that could alter the course of Indian democracy — the One Nation One Election Bill, Women’s Reservation Bill and Uniform Civil Code being some of the popular guesses. 

The One Nation One Election Bill — aimed at holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and all state Assemblies — would require multiple amendments to the Constitution, related to the duration and dissolution of Lok Sabha and state legislatures, etc. Among other tasks, the eight-member committee constituted by the government to look into the ‘one nation, one election’ proposal has been asked to “examine and recommend if the amendments to the Constitution would require ratification by the States.”

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