As speculation continues about whether the government will award Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose the Bharat Ratna this year, members of his family have clearly registered their displeasure with the government.

One of Bose’s great-nephews, Chandra Kumar Bose, insisted in an interview to the Press Trust of India that anyone with a sense of history would agree that Bose could not be given the Bharat Ratna after Rajiv Gandhi, who received his honour posthumously in 1991.

A better honour, he said, would be for the government to declassify files related to Bose’s mysterious disappearance in 1945. He also added that around 60 members of his family had agreed that none of them would go to the award ceremony to accept it.

Even if Chandra Kumar Bose and his relatives do not turn up to receive the award, the government is still well within its rights to bestow it.

Descendants might disagree about physical heirlooms and property that has been willed to them, but should they have a say in how the nation chooses to remember their ancestors?

When Sugata Bose, an All India Trinamool Congress member of parliament and another great-nephew of Bose, said that people like his great-uncle and Mahatma Gandhi are above the award, it should follow that Gandhi and Bose are also above the opinions of their family members.

This is not the first time Bose has been considered for the Bharat Ratna. When the government announced in a press notification in 1992 that it would confer a posthumous Bharat Ratna on the freedom fighter, there was widespread uproar about how the date of his death was still unknown. The freedom fighter is thought to have perished in a plane crash in August 1945, though some conspiracy theorists have remained sceptical about this suggestion.  Bose was eventually not featured on the final list after a public interest litigation was filed by a lawyer named Bijan Ghosh in the Calcutta High Court.

In 1997, the Supreme Court cleared the matter for good when, in response to the same PIL, it asked the government to withdraw its notification. It said that the honour had never been conferred, so it could not be withdrawn.

Those relatives who knew and interacted with figures of the stature of Bose or Gandhi might have a more nuanced insight into who they were and what their wishes might have been. Those of the younger generation do not have even this privilege, which is why the media should care less about what they have to say. This is not because these relatives should not hold any opinions they please, but because these opinions have no bearing on the figure in question.

Bose's relatives have at least consistently maintained that the manner of his disappearance must be resolved. But given that Bose was born 117 years ago in 1897, it is now impossible that he might still be alive in a Burmese forest or an ashram in Bengal. The particulars of his death might remain a mystery forever. This should not be used as an excuse not to honour Bose’s actions in life, even if the honour comes after such luminaries as BR Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.