The Supreme Court, on Friday, asserted that leaders like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are inherently “immortal” and do not require formal recognition through a judicial decree. The court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a directive to declare Bose a “son of the nation” and an apology from the Congress for allegedly downplaying his role in India’s freedom struggle and withholding information about his disappearance or death.
The top court maintained that issuing judicial orders to acknowledge Bose’s contributions may be inappropriate, as leaders of his stature should not need validation from a court of law. Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, part of the bench, emphasized that figures like Netaji are widely recognized and celebrated across the nation.
The PIL, filed by Pinak Pani Mohanty from Cuttack, urged the court to declare that independence from British rule was achieved by Bose-led Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz). Mohanty questioned the Congress’s role in recognizing Bose’s contribution and accused the political party of keeping files on Bose’s disappearance and death confidential.
The petitioner demanded that the Union government declare Bose’s birthday on January 23 as a “national day” and recognize him as a “son of the nation.” However, the bench asserted that leaders of Bose’s stature do not need a court order for commendation, stating, “They are great people, and not just us, the entire country owes to leaders like him.”
Referring to a 1997 Supreme Court order related to a controversy over posthumously awarding Bharat Ratna to Bose, the bench reminded Mohanty that similar issues had already been addressed by the court. The court advised Mohanty to withdraw the PIL, allowing him the liberty to pursue appropriate remedies, including representing his concerns to the authorities.
The circumstances surrounding Bose’s death remain speculative, with conflicting theories. Despite two commissions concluding that Netaji died in a plane crash in Taipei in 1945, a third probe panel contested this claim in its 2006 report, suggesting that Bose might have been alive after that. The government’s decision to declassify files on Bose in 2015 and subsequent efforts to obtain similar information from foreign governments have added complexity to the historical narrative.