Context: The Supreme Court recently ordered that a plea to change India’s name exclusively to ‘Bharat’ be converted into a representation and forwarded to the Union government (primarily the Ministry of Home Affairs) for an appropriate decision.

More on the news:

  • Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution. According to the SC, India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution.
  • According to the petitioner, 
    • ‘India’ is a name of foreign origin. The name can be traced back to the Greek term ‘Indica’.
    • The word ‘Bharat’ is closely associated with our Freedom Struggle. 
  • The petition seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States...”. 
  • It wants ‘India’ to be struck off from the Article.
  • According to the petition, this will ensure citizens of this country to get over the colonial past and instil a sense of pride in our nationality. 
  • It will also justify the hard fought freedom struggle by our forefathers.

Earlier petition:

  • The apex court had dismissed a similar petition in 2016. 
  • Then CJI orally remarked that every Indian had the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’ and the Supreme Court had no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country.

Article 1


Article 1 describes India, that is, Bharat as a ‘Union of States’ rather than a ‘Federation of States’. This provision deals with two things: 

  • Name of the country; and 
  • Type of polity.

Why two names?

  • There was no unanimity in the Constituent Assembly regarding the name of the country. 
  • Some members suggested the traditional name (Bharat), while others advocated the modern name (India). 

Hence, the Constituent Assembly had to adopt a mix of both (‘India, that is, Bharat’)

Union not federation:

The country is described as ‘Union’ although its Constitution is federal in structure. 

According to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the phrase ‘Union of States’ has been preferred to ‘Federation of States’ for two reasons: 

  1. The Indian Federation is not the result of an agreement among the states like the American Federation; and 
  2. The states have no right to secede from the federation. 

The federation is an Union because it is indestructible. The country is an integral whole and divided into different states only for the convenience of administration.

According to Article 1, the territory of India can be classified into three categories:

  1. Territories of the states
  2. Union territories
  3. Territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any time.

Territory of India vs Union of India:

The names of states and union territories and their territorial extent are mentioned in the first schedule of the Constitution. 

  • Notably, the ‘Territory of India’ is a wider expression than the ‘Union of India’ because the latter includes only states while the former includes not only the states, but also union territories and territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any future time.  
Image Source: TH