Justice Katju reacts on Bharat Ratna, 2024

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

Bharat Ratna

Bharat Ratna, 2024

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award in India, given by the President of India to persons who have rendered 'exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour'.


It would be interesting to consider 4 persons awarded Bharat Ratna this year in India, and examine their 'exceptional service/performance of the highest order' which they rendered to the nation.

1. Former Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao, has been given the award. His 'exceptional service/performance of the highest order' was that he gave Rs 40 lacs in cheque in 1993 to each of 4 Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs as bribe to save his minority govt in the no confidence vote in Parliament

By a strange verdict, the Supreme Court held that a receiver of bribe was guilty, but not the giver

It is alleged that Rao was complicit in demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, which in my opinion was the greatest tragedy of India after Partition of 1947. As the Prime Minister he was certainly aware that the Masjid was being demolished, but for reasons better known to himself, did nothing to stop it.

2. Chaudhary Charan Singh has been given the award. He was a reputed 'dal badlu', who frequently changed his parties (though now Nitish Kumar may have broken his record)

It is said that in 1967 he changed 3 parties in 3 days. This was certainly an 'exceptional service/performance of the highest order' which he rendered to the nation.

He was regarded as a rank opportunist with a lust for power, with no regard to the national interest.

3. LK Advani, the bhasmaasur of India, who by his Ram Janmabhumi agitation set fire to the whole country, spread religious hatred against minorities on a large scale, and polarised Indian society to such an extent, that it may take decades to recover, has been given the award. This polarisation of society, and spreading and inciting communal hatred, was his 'exceptional service/performance of the highest order' rendered to the nation.

4. Karpoori Thakur, former Chief Minister of Bihar, has also been given the award.

He took caste politics in Bihar to a new high level, which was his ''exceptional service/performance of the highest order' to the country.

Shiv Sena Chief and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, has rightly said that the real reason for giving Bharat Ratna to Karpoori Thakur, who belonged to the 'nai' (barber) caste, was to enable the ruling BJP to get backward caste votes in the coming 2024 parliamentary elections.

These bharat ratans (jewels of India) certainly deserved what they got !

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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