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December 9, 1998


Moscow varsity's Indian scholar files PIL against calling Sen a Nobel laureate

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The Supreme Court is likely to hear on December 16 a public interest litigation seeking a mandamus (a writ from a superior body to an inferior body, asking the latter to carry out an order) to the media and others concerned to describe the world-famed Amartya Sen as a recepient of the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences and not as a ''Nobel Laureate.''

In the petition filed by a scholar from the Moscow University and a doctorate in nuclear physics, Dr Subodh Chandra Roy and science researcher in the Rewa university in Madhya Pradesh Satya Prakash, the Union of India, Sen, general manager, Press Trust of India, chief editor and general manager of United News of India, state of West Bengal and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation have been arrayed as respondents.

It is alleged in the petition that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is creating confusion regarding the so-called Nobel prize for economics -- the award bestowed upon Sen this year.

Citing a communication from the chief legal counsellor of the Bank of Sweden and the transcript from the official Website of the Nobel Foundation, the petitioners claim that according to the will of Dr Alfred Nobel, the Nobel prize should be given for five disciplines in which economics has no place.

This award given for economics is actually a ''memorial award'' given by the Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank) in economic sciences in the memory of Dr Alfred Nobel.

Petitioners claim that for this reason Sen, let alone other previous prize-winners, cannot be called as 'Nobel laureate'.

However, the petitioners admit that this is the highest award in the field of economics and equivalent to the Nobel prize.

The petitioners point out that the award was also handed over at the same function but the medal is slightly different and the logo of the donor bank is inscribed on it, apart from Dr Alfred Nobel's emblem.

The petitioners have also sought a direction to the West Bengal government and CMC not to hold a civic reception on December 27 in honour of Sen as a Nobel laureate.

However, the petitioners hastened to add that they have no objection if the reception was organised for Sen winning ''the Bank of Sweden award" in economic sciences.

Roy has stated in support of his claim the bank official's letter which says, ''difference between the Bank of Sweden Prize and the others (Nobel prizes) is, in my opinion, evident from its name and the authorities in Sweden responsible for the selection of the laureates consistently repeat it.

''I fail to see that any reasonable ground of confusion. If some news media omit the difference in every report about the prize in economics, it is not, in my opinion, an omission for which Swedish authorities should be made responsible.''

Roy asked whether all the prize winners can be called Nobel laureates. The foundation's replied in the negative, saying the Swedish Bank award winner should be called a prize winner and not a Nobel laureate.

However, the official Website of the Nobel Foundation calls it ''the Sveriges Riksbank (Bank of Sweden) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel''.

It further notes that "the Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbanks) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was instituted in 1968, at the tercentenary of the bank. The procedure for the election of laureates is the same as for the Nobel Prizes and the award is of the same amount.

''The nomination and selection of the Economics Prize laureates is to a large extent handled by the Economics Prize Committee of the (Royal Swedish) Academy (of Science).

"The Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry have been awarded by the Academy since 1901 and the Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel since 1968.''

Compiled from the Indian media. Additional reportage by UNI

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