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CURRENT ARTICLES OF V. SUNDARAM (JANUARY 2010 ONWARDS)

Monday, February 22, 2010

PSEUDO-SECULAR RULE OF LAW IS EVER SHIFTING

13-1-2010


PRAVESH DUBEY



I am shocked to note that the Principal of St Judes High School, in suburban Andheri in Mumbai, Frank Fernandes, had the temerity to chop off a Hindu student’s small inoffensive pigtail one week ago. The name of the student is Pravesh Dubey. His mother complained to the Police against the Christian authorities of the school and charged them with hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community to which she and her son belonged. The police have filed the FIR of the aggrieved Hindu mother. S R Dhanedhar, Senior Inspector of Sakinaka police station, has stated “We are gathering evidence against the principal before arresting him.”

According to the police, the plait of the 14-year-old eighth class student was cut with a pair of scissors by Fernandes in his cabin. The Principal had asked Pravesh Dubey, a Brahmin, several times to get his pigtail cut as the school rules do not allow such things. When the boy went to the Principal’s cabin on 5 January, 2010, the Principal on seeing the pigtail of Dubey got agitated and took a pair of scissors sand chopped it off.

After getting to know about the incident, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists protested near the police station demanding immediate action against the Principal of St Jude’s High School. Subsequently, the Principal was booked under sections 295A and 323 of the Indian Penal Code.

When I tried to reach some VHP leaders in Maharashtra in order to gather more facts about the savage treatment meted out to a young Hindu Brahmin student in St Jude’s High School in Mumbai, one of the senior VHP leaders told me in anguish: ‘We can never hope to get any justice from the Government of Maharashtra on this issue. Hindus are treated as third class citizens. The option of moving a Court of Law for getting timely and appropriate justice under the law of the Constitution, in the manner and measure required, from any Court of Law, including the High Courts or even the Supreme Court of India, is not open to any Hindu today. We are at our wit’s end not knowing which way to go.

The VHP leader invited my attention to the case of a Muslim male school student in Madhya Pradesh whose plea that he should be permitted to sport a beard in a convent school was rejected by the Supreme Court in March-April 2009 and subsequently his plea was admitted in September 2009. No politician in India can somersault on the same issue without inviting the adverse criticism of the lowest court of law. Similarly no Chief Secretary of a State or even the Union Cabinet Secretary can somersault on the same issue. But on the same issue relating to the same Muslim student in the same institution, the Highest Court of Law in India can render justice with electronic speed by a complete somersault!! The title for this story is derived from this mercurial and totally ‘undulating’ path relating to the rule of law in India.

I HAVE GATHERED ALL THE FACTUAL DETAILS RELATING TO THE MUSLIM BOY WHO WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA REVERSE ITS OWN STAND IN A MATTER OF 100 DAYS!

A student called Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, had sought the quashing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven. When this Muslim student moved the Supreme Court of India, his counsel Justice B.A Khan (retd) argued before the Supreme Court Bench that sporting a beard was an indispensable part of Islam. But Justice Katju of the Supreme Court was apparently not impressed with the argument and quipped ‘But you, Mr Khan, don’t sport a beard?’

Pointing out that the Sikh community members were allowed to keep a beard and sport a turban, Salim alleged there was a clear discrimination on part of the school to force him to be clean shaven and this rule was violative of his fundamental rights. To this plea Justice Katju replied: ‘You can join some other institution if you do not want to observe the rules. But you can’t ask the school to change the rules for you.’ Rejecting the plea of this Muslim student, the Supreme Court said that “secularism” cannot be overstretched and that “TALIBANISATION” of the country cannot be permitted. Justice Markandeya Katju speaking for a bench headed by Justice Raveendran observed: “We don’t want to have talibans in the country. Tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa, can we allow it.”

The School’s victory at the level of the Division Bench was however very short lived. (Less than 3 months!!). In September 2009 (within 100 days), the Supreme Court suspended the order of a Christian School in Madhya Pradesh expelling a Muslim student for sporting a beard. A Bench consisting of Justice B N Agrawal and Justice G S Singhvi ordered the restoration of Mohammed Salim’s admission in the Nirmala Convent at Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh observing that the school’s act of expelling the student was prima facie ‘ridiculous’.

‘So you have been dismissed merely because you have a beard,’ the Bench asked Salim’s counsel B.A. Khan and added, “So no Sikh student can sport a beard? Tomorrow they may say no to admission if you are not fair complexioned,’ said the Bench, adding ‘it’s ridiculous.’

The Bench also issued notice to school authorities and the state government on Salim’s lawsuit, which sought scrapping of his school’s anti-beards rule contending that it impinges upon his religious faith.

Salim’s lawsuit has a chequered history at the level of the Supreme Court. As we have seen above, earlier it had been dismissed on March 30 this year, by another Supreme Court Bench making a remark that Muslim students cannot insist on sporting beards as it would lead to ‘Talibanisation’ of the country. Justice Markandeya Katju later apologized for the remark and had recalled his order dismissing Salim’s lawsuit!

While tendering his apology on July 5, 2009, Justice Markandeya Katju referred the lawsuit to Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan’s Bench, saying that the matter should be heard by another Bench. Accordingly, the matter was heard in September 2009 by a another Bench consisting of Justice B N Agrawal and Justice G S Singhvi and this Bench gave the verdict in favour of the Muslim student and against the institution in Madhya Pradesh.

I spoke to a London based English writer of comedies who takes interest in matters relating to the British Raj and the present day India. He sent me into raptures of mirth when he told me, with unconcealed glee: ‘The principle of coitus interruptus is not applied in the field of family planning where it is absolutely necessary. The ludicrous thing about India is that it seems to be more ruthlessly applied in the field of law enforcement and judicial verdicts at the highest level.’

Seeing the unsteady, ever-wavering, never-fixed and ever-shifting quicksands of the Supreme Court of Law on the same issue, I can only say that our Supreme Court of India seems to be fully upholding the following poem of the great English poet W.H Auden (1907-1973)

Law, Like Love
Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.
Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.
Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I’ve told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.
Yet law-abidin g scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.
Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.
No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.
Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

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