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November 18, 2017

Meeting of judges on a holy day for a minority sparks a debate


Jamsheed Rizwani 

Chief Justice o India HL Dattu

Chief Justice o India HL Dattu

Prominent Indian newspaper The Hindu today published a news item with the heading “Holidays on holy days?” pointing out “to many the exchange of letters between Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India (CJI), H.L. Dattu, might seem a trivial issue. But was it really so? Justice Joseph had recently expressed anguish at the way secularism was being tinkered with, objecting to a meeting of State Chief Justices on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, since these were national holidays and also days of prayer for the Christian community, in a letter addressed to the CJI. Justice Joseph had also gone to Kerala to attend Easter services. Hence, it was inappropriate, he argued, to hold the meeting on these days.”

The Hindu says : In the exchange of letters between CJI & a fellow judge on subject of secularism, several issues of import have been raised which merit a public discussion.”

On this issue Jamsheed Rizwani writes from Paris:

Secularism has a particular sense in Europe, where religion is not evoked in the public sphere. Public holidays are sacred (without necessarily having divine blessings) to the French….. The learned CJI should have diplomatically asked all the Judges for their avaiability for the crucial meeting and tried to fix one where all were available. What blew it out of proportions in the Indian context, was the ruling party leaders’ (and their fellow travellers’) all out attacks verbal for some and violent for many others on minorities… As long as party leaders make irresponsibile comments on the minorities and their rights, there will be some ambiguity for some strange décisions like the one taken by the CJI to maintain the meeting on a public gazetted Holiday – a holy day for a minority……The intention of the CJI with regard to minority rights will now be under constant scrutiny which could have been avoided…..He has invited a cloud of suspicion over the Court which could have well been avoided…..

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