In the creation of a society which seeks to establish political, social and economic equality and thereby aspires to become truly democratic, there is no room for some individuals to hold titles thus creating artificial distinctions among members of the same society.
Recognition of titles and the consequent creation of a hierarchy of aristocracy had been denounced as an anti-democratic practice as early as the eighteenth century by both the American and the French revolutions. A democracy should not create titles and titular glories.
In India, the practice of the British Government conferring a number of titles every year mostly on their political supporters and Government officers, had already created a peculiar class of nobility among the people. It was difficult, on principle, for independent India to recognise and accept these titles apart from considerations of the merit of those who held them.
Article 18, therefore, abolishes all titles and the State is prohibited from conferring titles on any person. The only exception made to the strict rule of non-recognition of titles is that provided in favour of academic or military distinctions.
Ambedkar explained in the Constituent Assembly that Article 18 did not create a justiciable right:
“The non-acceptance of titles is a condition of continued citizenship, it is not a right, it is a duty imposed upon the individual that if he continues to be the citizen of this country, then he must abide by certain conditions.
One of the conditions is that he must not accept a title, if he did, it would be open for Parliament to decide by law what should be done to persons who violate the provisions of this article. One of the penalties may be that he may lose the right of citizenship.”
Thus, under Article 18 not only is the State in India prevented from conferring titles on any person, but Indian citizens are forbidden to accept any title from a foreign State without the consent of the President of India.
The prohibition applies not only to the acceptance of titles but also to that of any present, emolument or office of any kind from any foreign State by any person holding an office of profit or trust under the State.
The battle against the titles conferred by the British monarch started with the passing of the United States Constitution in 1787 which prohibited all titles of nobility in the United States.
Another British dependency, Ireland, on establishing its independence, followed suit and its Constitution too prohibits the conferring of titles by the State. India and Burma were the next to follow the example; the former despite the fact that it decided to continue to be a member of the Commonwealth of Nations whose head was the British monarch.