Sabarimala and the Supreme Court Judgment

By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

Can you name the most talked about judgment of the supreme court in recent years? You are right, if you answered “the Sabarimala judgement”.

By a 4:1 majority, supreme court judges declared a week ago that women aged 10 to 50 could also worship at Sabarimala temple in Kerala, as part of their religious freedom.  But this ruling is not relished by an incredibly large number of women whom the court thought was rescuing from an unlawful denial of freedom. Huge numbers of women have come out in the open in Kerala, displaying their resentment spontaneously through rallies everyone can see, while political-minded Hindu-bashers are elated.  What has gone wrong, and where?

Hindus have been observing a rule in their pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple where the presiding deity is Lord Ayyappa. That is, women in menstruating age do not, and are not allowed to, visit the temple. For convenience, the Travancore Devaswom Board determined that age group as 10 to 50.  This practice has been followed for centuries in Sabarimala, since the temple first opened. Kerala had also recognized this practice by making it a statutory rule which was questioned before the supreme court. After a hearing, the court struck down that rule as opposed to its parent statute and violative of the Constitution too. Now there is no legal bar on women of any age to visit Sabarimala temple.

Don’t you know: Hinduism is not observed the same way in all of India’s regions or amidst all its people or even between those within a family. Believers express their submission to God or their acknowledgement of a supreme being in diverse ways – privately, publicly, ceremonially, subtly, joyfully or as a penance.  If men alone pray in a temple or women alone worship at a shrine, and neither group feels left out or excluded, law must recognize and protect those practices.

All religious beliefs and practices are a matter of faith. Keep or follow them, as a member of that religion, if you have faith. No one should object to those beliefs and practices, unless they or the way they are observed inflict suffering on another person.  So why not legally recognize those practices and let them prevail? After all, even Communists whose political beliefs and objectives do not honestly go with democracy are allowed a free play under our democratic Constitution.

If a law lets people follow a religion without asking for rational proof of existence of the God they pray – that’s good – but forcibly thrusts its idea of equality between men and women for the way they worship their God, is that law rational?

To be sure, don’t imagine that the law aims to liberate Muslim and Hindu women on an equal footing, and that just as the supreme court invalidated triple talaq and saved Muslim women, so it helped Hindu women by lifting the bar for their entry into Sabarimala temple. There is no comparison between these issues. Better say it and explain, in case anyone thinks otherwise.

To start with, marriages are also a protection for a woman, unlike for a man. No woman of any religion, certainly no Indian woman, would relish her husband having a right to divorce her at his unquestioned sweet will by uttering a word three times. So, the supreme court’s judgement of doing away with triple talaq is a true liberation from a clear injustice for Muslim women. The Sabarimala verdict does not cure any injustice on Hindu women. Nor does it create any equality for them with men.  It dismantles no discrimination against Hindu women. In fact, they cheerfully stand by the men in their families who gear up for 41 days before journeying to Sabarimala, and support in preparatory ceremonies in their homes. They feel blessed for their men’s journey to the hill temple and for the backstage roles they play at home.  To look upon women in the age group of 10 to 50 as suffering some inequality or injustice here is to blindfold reality.

A Constitution and a law will evoke respect among men and women it is meant to serve if it reflects the peaceful aspirations of those people.  The law contained in the Sabarimala judgement doesn’t score high marks on this touchstone – because the Sabarimala temple is perceived in the mind of Hindu men and women differently from other temples, even other Ayyappa temples. There are about 1,000 other temples for Lord Ayyappa which all women freely visit.  But the Lord’s deity in Sabarimala temple is believed to be in the form of anaisthik brahmachari (an eternal celibate), and legend says that the mode and manner of worship at this temple was revealed by the Lord himself. So, Hindus view the Sabarimala deity and its rules of worship uniquely, though they may not explain their sensibilities in cold logic to the satisfaction of an inquiring court. You will appreciate this better with an example.

If a mad government or temple administration bans the entry of women of any age group in Ramanathaswamy temple at Rameswaram, or Kashi Vishwanath temple at Varanasi, Indian women are not going to take it. Nor will Indian men. And, when that happens, if the supreme court steps in and overturns the ban, that verdict is going to be hailed by all women, and men too.  Do you now get an idea of the different perceptions of Hindus about their different Gods?

To be sure again, sensible persons don’t expect the law to stand aside and permit every action or practice prevalent in a society on the strength of a religion, even if it hurts others unfairly and cannot survive in modern times.  Law has to do its pruning on such actions or practices, wherever it nurtures people’s mental health, unity, freedom and happiness – as was done with the abolition of sati or with the codification of the Hindu law. As in good pruning, law makers should know where and how far to click their scissors and where to stop.

The Sabarimala judgement could also trouble Hindus for a psychological reason, in the environment they live in.  Indian law, law enforcers and politicians treat adherents of alien minority religions more indulgently and respectfully, and they have privileges that are denied to Hindus in the land of their forefathers.  With all this, when Hindus witness on the ground more of antipathy and conversion agents from other religions fiercely at work, any sort of hit Hindus take from the State gives them more hurt than the real blow. So, Hindus deserve some sympathy and a soothing touch at this time from fellow Hindus.  Now let us move on.

Where do we go from here? Hindu women aged 10 to 50 have something to do – the very young ones will of course be advised by adult women in the family.  If a third person has to view them as genuine and serious with their long-held Sabarimala faith and practices, they just have to keep off Sabarimala temple till they reach 50 as they did before the supreme court verdict. As long as they do this, their sense of pride and dignity about their religious beliefs will shine more than before.  If a few women in that age group will be seen in Sabarimala temple from now on, it makes no difference – that scene will only highlight the fact many are not coming.  If abstainers can stick to their resolve they stand taller for what they assert on their wish or belief. Succeeding generations can take their call, as the present generation has done for itself. Fair enough?

(Note: This article is borrowed with thanks from HERE)

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2018

A note by: Shreepal Singh

Equality under Indian Constitution is NOT absolute. Those who have anything to do with law in India, like lawyers, know very well that Supreme Court itself propounded the law of “reasonable classification” under the very concept of equality.

This enunciation of law is that there cannot be an absolute equality; that there can be classification; that this classification must  be to seek an objective; that this classification must have a reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved (by such classification).

Now, as the Hindu belief goes, it is the temple of Lord Ayyappa and it is HIS wish or dictates that must prevail here in the matter of granting PRIVILEGE to whom HE wishes to bestow upon: Men or Women or Both or None.

Humans are not supposed to have any rights or claims enforceable against HIM. Constitution applies to humans and not to God – God, the way HE is believed by humans.

Simply put, it is a matter of faith – whatever this faith be and Constitution itself protects such religious faith and belief, even if it looks discriminatory.

Thus, where the Supreme Court finds  it discriminatory, the women in large number in Kerala do not find any discrimination in this practice, and these very women are now out in agitation against the supreme Court judgment that gives these women equality with men!

Does it not sound very strange that those who got right are agitating against the grant of that right?

Indeed, it is very strange; because faith does not demand reason in its application in the form of religious practices and traditions. Faith and belief are something else! And they are very valuable ones. They are protected by the Constitution – unless, of course, they seek to sabotage the State established by this very Constitution, either by their intent or by words or by actions!!


Pranab Mukherjee at RSS Meet: He Came, He Spoke, He Conveyed Nothing

(1) of (2): By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

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Former President Pranab Mukherjee addressed volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at its Nagpur headquarters on the 7th of this month. His speech was keenly awaited by leaders of the RSS, while his very presence at an RSS meet was openly disfavoured by the Congress party.  Now what he spoke matters.

“Any attempts at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity…… We derive our strength from tolerance ……” were some of the formal high-sounding words Pranab Mukherjee uttered at Nagpur.  At one end these words seem to convey right and noble thoughts, but at the other end they really ride over reality. Anyone who remembers the bloodied history of India’s many regions and the attack on its ancient Hindu religion – the assault continuing to this day in creeping milder forms– will know that the former President skillfully said nothing worth remembering.

No one quarrels with Pranab that “hatred and intolerance” cannot be the proud hallmarks of a nation’s character. Hatred generally connotes a blind unreasoned dislike for another person, and it cannot help a peaceful society.  As for intolerance, no doubt the former President spoke of it as a cousin of hatred, i.e., an attitude that allows little room for free speech and legitimate dissent in a democracy.  So far so good.  As for “dogmas of religion”, we know that the Indian Constitution does not allow such dogmas guiding the affairs of central and state governments – as in the Vatican City or in Saudi Arabia. So dogmas are not a real issue with anyone.  What Pranab spoke in the same breath calls for criticism.

Pranab said that our nationhood is not to be defined in terms of “identities of religion, region” also. Did he mean that no one should imagine India as a Hindu nation or Muslim nation or Christian nation or a nation of any other religion? No, he meant only one religion. He spoke his words when, amidst forced and enticed conversions witnessed all through in India, Hindus make up for nearly 80% of India’s population, Muslims 14% and persons of other religions 6% – according to 2011 census. He frowned on “identities of region” when followers of the majority religion in India consider Kasi, Mathura, Ayodhya and Rameswaram among their holy places and the Ganges and a few other rivers specially sacred, and so hold the whole of India dear to them.

India is the heartland of Hindus. Hindus take pride in being Hindus and passionately look upon India as a Hindu nation, with its fabled Hindu history and epics. Though Indian Hindus speak different languages, their religion is their unifying force.  It is the deep widespread Hindu faith of its people that holds India together, and nothing else comes close, not even the Constitution. Then why should they not feel proud about something that keeps them together and not say it aloud too?  Whom does it bother if they do it?

Though Pranab did not specify a religion, obviously he sensed an urge among Indian Hindus to view India as a Hindu nation and so he spoke of it disapprovingly. If their urge was not real and widespread, he would not have talked about a non-existent wish among any sizeable group of people.  So it is clear he was really cautioning about the Indian Hindus.

No other country, no other people, will find it odd that Hindus of India consider their land a Hindu nation – just as, for good reason, Pakistanis look at their land as a Muslim nation or the Israelis call their country a Jewish state.  It is some Indians who, aiming for domestic political gains, do not relish Indian Hindus calling India a Hindu nation. Congressmen in India take this stance in the hope of harvesting bulk votes in some quarters. Perhaps the Congressman in Pranab intrinsically got the better of the Hindu in him.

Every society may look upon something it possesses to feel special and proud about itself. Such a feeling binds them more and helps their progress.  That sentiment is to be welcomed and applauded, so long as it is not a tool to subjugate or attack other people.  For Indian Hindus, forming 80% of the Indian population, their religion and their land are special.  They will naturally identify their country with them and with their religion, even as they are friendly with religious minorities.  Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are religions born in India, out of the  Hindu religion, but to this day Hindus keep friendly relations with people of those faiths. That is enough proof that Hindus are a tolerant society, not easily found elsewhere. But if some religions and their heads pose a threat to Hindu beliefs and culture, why will Hindus of today not resist and rally among themselves to guard their religion?

It was because India’s regions and Hindu religion were tolerant to other faiths – and overly accommodating too – that foreign religions could enter and thrive in India.  As late as 1950 when India’s Constitution was adopted, when Hindus formed 84% of the Indian population as found in the census of 1951, some special favours too were conferred on religious minorities. Which other people of a country have denied some special favours to themselves though forming 84% of the population, while granting them to religious minorities under a Constitution?  And then going down on numbers in their land once conquered and ruled by people of other faiths who are now growing in size within the country? Facing the prospect of its majority religion slowly turned into a minority? And still getting a rap from a former President for its people being naturally proud of their region and religion?  Out of this bakwas, let my country awake.

Note: Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2018


(2) of (2) By: Shreepal Singh

Pranab Mukherji comes from Bengal, a place that taught India in the voice of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo what Indian nationalism stands for. But unfortunately Pranabda did not seem to know the A B Cs of what these two great sons of Mother India taught.

He is a learned man, comes from the place where these great personalities played their epoch making roles and has been the President of India, and he is supposed to know what they taught. Alas, he apparently seems to know nothing.

He spoke at the RSS meet by quoting dictionary about the meaning of nationalism and about the ‘need of an Indian nationalism that is inclusive and diverse.’ Does he not know that in India Hindus are in overwhelming majority and it is because of these Hindus that India and Indian nationalism have been inclusive of all kinds of diversity –  religious and not religious? Who have been accommodated – and included – here by Hindus – they who do not accommodate others where they are in Hindu like majority! He should have underlined this merit of Hindu nationalism in his address but he parroted a Nehruvian punchlines by implication that RSS’ brand Hindu nationalism should be ‘inclusive of diversity’ as if it had a history of atrocities on non-conforming diverse segments.

Why did Pranabda fail to underscore this reality? Perhaps, he is too indebted to Congress – because we give him a benefit of doubt that he is naive or a fool !

Kapil Sibal, Congress and Impeachment Drama: A Crime Against Indian Republic!

(1) of (2) By: Shreepal Singh: (2) of (2) By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate Chennai

(1) of (2):

Now that the challenge to the ‘rejection’  order on ‘impeachment notice’ by the Rajya Sabha Chairman has been ‘Dismissed as withdrawn’ by the Supreme Court of India on May 8, 2018, it is apt time to go to the root cause why this ‘impeachment drama’ was enacted by Kapil Sibal and his Congress party. It has all the more become necessary because this antics played by this party and its lawyer has caused an irrepaiable harm to one of the great pillars – like a spinal cord – of the Indian republic. It is a crime of gigantic proportion committed against the people of India and their unflinching faith in the Indian judiciary, which crime must not go unpunished when the time of reckoning comes.

But first let us see the substance of the posture adopted by Kapil Sibal in the court on May 8, 2018 before his case was dismissed as withdrawn by the court. As soon as the case was taken up, the court demanded Kapil Sibal to argue his case on merits. In the court parlance, the words ‘on merits’ mean the person or a petitioner has to tell and satisfy the court what is his grievance for which he has come to the court and what is the law that supports his right to get the redressal from the court.

A court is a court and the only right that a litigant has is to address the court about his grievance. The rest of the matter – the decision etc. – is in the domain of that court. It is a very well settled law that even a wrong ‘judgment’ of the court is a ‘judgment’ and is binding on the litigating parties in that case.

The normal course open to Kapil Sibal was to argue his case in the court, before which it had been listed for arguments. Kapil Sibal did not chose this course. In substance, his argument was: “I do not recognize this court to be a proper court, which can hear my case!” This was the substance. It was said in a cunning and manipulative manner: Let me know who has constituted this court (e.i. this Bench); give me a copy of the order by which this court is constituted; may be, I will challenge that order!

What is the meaning of this argument? The meaning of this argument is: I do not recognize this court; I do not submit to this court! The court mildly reminded him that as the four senior most judges had something to do with this episode, and the fifth one is the CJI himself (which are excluded from hearing this case), this is the court of next five senior most judges.

But Sibal prostrated: There is no ‘judicial’ order to constitute this court; it is constituted by an ‘administrative’ order of the CJI!

What does it mean? In substance it means: Give me the court of my choice! No court would ever succumb to such browbeating tactics. The court proceeded to dismiss Sibal’s case, and Sibal requested to withdraw his case. The court dismissed it as withdrawn.

Now let us see why this whole drama of impeachment and a verbal ruckus in the highest court of the land was done by Congress and its lawyer in the first place.

(2) of (2):

Why should a political party be so venomous, and its leader so mischievous, towards a chief justice in the supreme court?

The Congress and Kapil Sibal could answer: “That’s our hope for survival”.

On the 20th of this month, 64 members of Rajya Sabha got together and presented a proposal – called a motion – to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, for removing Justice Dipak Misra, the current chief justice in the supreme court. It is a tough long-drawn process to remove a serving judge of the supreme court or of a high court by force of law.

Newspapers call that process impeachment.

The Constitution permits removal of a judge of the higher judiciary on grounds of “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.

The 64 proposers who sought removal of Chief Justice Misra were drawn from seven Opposition parties, led by the Congress party. Supreme court lawyer, Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal who was one of those 64, looked a chief architect and proponent of the impeachment move.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu consulted some experts in law and quickly rejected the motion for impeachment. So that proposal died.

The Congress party, principally led by Kapil Sibal on this issue, has dared a dubious act doomed to fail anyway.

First, there was no cause for removing Chief Justice Misra, no “misbehaviour or incapacity”.  Second, the Opposition parties can never gather the needed special majority of members in either House of Parliament to approve the impeachment motion, if the voting day comes.  Third, there is something to be noted in passing but it is real. Chief Justice Misra will retire on 2nd October 2018, in less than six months – mostly resulting in the dropping of any impeachment proceedings midway because of his retirement.

Then why did the Congress party and Kapil Sibal go ahead on their idea of removing the Chief Justice of India? Because the party has turned vicious and its MP villainous. They have their reasons.

Anyone sees that some observations, orders and judgements rendered by the supreme court, especially Justice Misra, in recent times are not relished by the Congress party and its lawyer Kapil Sibal.  They are upset because if the court had done things or issued orders they wished, they would be politically benefitted and could also make propaganda against the ruling BJP which has been widely winning elections across India.

The Congress is now angry and frustrated with the ruling party and with the supreme court headed by its present chief justice.

So the Congress would surely and stealthily be behind the 64 members of Rajya Sabha in their action against Chief Justice Misra. Of course, Kapil Sibal says that those members were not acting at the bidding of their parties and were exercising their Constitutional rights to seek removal of a judge.

Are you not laughing?

The Congress party knows that the very commencement of impeachment proceedings against a judge of the higher judiciary, especially a straight judge, will deeply disturb and embarrass him. The judge might also stay away from the court room during the pendency of those proceedings.

That is what the Congress party wanted Chief Justice Misra to face, and perhaps do, with a mere beginning of the impeachment process if Chairman Venkaiah Naidu would admit the notice of motion.

The Congress and Kapil Sibal could attempt what they wished because the present law gives them scope for it. Here is how.

Under the law 50 members of Rajya Sabha, or 100 members of Lok Sabha, may sign and present a notice of motion for removing a judge.  After the Rajya Sabha Chairman or Lok Sabha Speaker admits that notice of motion, it is not put to vote in either House straight way. The Chairman or Speaker is required to form a three-member inquiry committee consisting of a sitting judge of the supreme court, a sitting chief justice of a high court and a jurist.  Keeping in view the notice of motion, the inquiry committee will frame specific charges against the judge and consider his defence. Finally, the committee will report if the judge is guilty of any charge or not.

If the inquiry committee reports that the judge is not guilty of any charge against him, the proposal for impeachment cannot continue and that is the end of it. If the committee reports he is guilty of any charge, then Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha will vote to say if the judge is to be removed or not.

For a successful impeachment, both the Houses need to vote separately and favouring the removal, after which the President issues a formal order removing the judge.

The law prescribes a tough special majority of members in each House for impeachment to succeed.  First, at least a simple majority of the total membership of that House should be present when the vote is taken.  Next, approval of a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting is needed to consider the motion as passed in a House.

Rajya Sabha has 245 members and Lok Sabha, 545 members. All the members of each House of Parliament would be present in their House when voting on impeachment takes place, since that moment is important.

With the ruling NDA on the other side, the Congress party and its allies can never get anywhere near winning numbers in either House on an impeachment motion.  So their attempt to bring down Chief Justice Misra was destined to fail.

The Congress party and Kapil Sibal knew it well. So did the ruling party and everyone who studied law. Still the Congress party could abuse the law and try its luck for a wicked purpose.

We should now discover that our law for impeachment of judges is imperfect in one aspect, and it can be cured with just one change in The Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.  That change, when done, will require that the 3-member inquiry committee for investigating any charge against a judge is to be appointed only after both Houses of Parliament, at their separate sittings, call for the constitution of that committee by passing resolutions with the support of a simple majority of members present in each House.

Such a change in the law will disable any attempt by small irresponsible groups of politicians who certainly cannot secure a two-thirds majority support in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to remove a judge, but yet file a notice of motion for his removal.

They do it to give the targeted judge an embarrassing prospect of a needless investigation by an inquiry committee.

The present law cannot stop any such malicious notice of motion coming from an inconsequential group of MP’s, and leaves it to the wisdom of one person – the presiding officer of Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha – to reject that notice and keep out an inquiry committee.

This is not the best way of protecting an honest independent judge. The suggested change in the law will do it effectively.

The changed law will also bring it closer to the protection given to the President of India in the Constitutional provisions which prescribe when and how the President may be impeached.  Actually, a judge of the higher judiciary also needs such an assured protection from harassment.

Numerous politicians, from ruling parties and from the Opposition, would be interested in many court cases with high stakes, which are often decided by high courts and the supreme court. These men and women would be upset with judicial decisions that hurt them, their close relatives and associates and their benamis.

So politicians could often have their grouses against bold, independent and upright judges, but not against the President who has chiefly ceremonial duties. That means, judges of high courts and the supreme court are likely targets of frivolous and vengeful moves of impeachment.  Hence the law must give them firmer pre-emptive protection against such assaults, like the President has.

Even a single incident of a motivated impeachment action  against a judge, if it makes some headway, is a serious blow to India’s institution of pride and honour, its judiciary.

So the change in the law for removal of judges, outlined above, is crucial.  After all, when criminals outsmart policemen, policemen should quickly get the better of criminals.

No one may imagine that this opinion is unduly harsh on the Congress party or its member Kapil Sibal.

They could not think of or ask for any action for the removal of Justice C. S. Karnan of the Madras High Court whose “misbehaviour” till his retirement was prolonged and well known. At least in a few instances, his misbehaviour was also affirmed by a seven-judge bench of the supreme court when last year it convicted him, still a high court judge, for contempt of court.

You will correctly guess why the Congress party wanted to be inactive in his case. But the party has a different approach towards the respectable Chief Justice Dipak Misra because this judge remains inconvenient and, more over, for subtle reasons this judge can also be coolly treated as a political untouchable in today’s India.

There was also an instance of impeachment proceeding against a supreme court judge in which the Congress party and Kapil Sibal showed peculiar disinterest and interest, and that must be remembered. That supreme court judge was Justice V. Ramaswami.

In 1993, impeachment proceedings against Justice Ramaswami had crossed the inquiry committee stage also. The 3-member inquiry committee had found that judge guilty of misbehaviour on 11 counts, mostly financial misdeeds.

Before voting took place in Lok Sabha that judge was assisted by Kapil Sibal who, as his lawyer, addressed the House for 5 hours to defend the judge. During voting in the House, the ruling Congress party, together with its allies, rescued that judge in a special way.  Their 205 members were present inside Lok Sabha to raise the number of votes needed for a two-thirds majority of members present, but abstained from voting.

And that ensured the collapse of the motion for impeaching Justice V. Ramaswami.

Do you now have a full  view of the diabolic double standards of the Congress party and Kapil Sibal when it comes to preserving independence and uprightness among judges of the higher judiciary?

This article was originally published HERE. Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2018

Jallikattu: Komban the Bull, Tells You Something While Dying!

By: R. Veera Raghavan (Advocate, Chennai)

A five-year old ‘jallikattu’ bull, called Komban, was in the news a week ago.

Jallikattu is termed a sporting event in which numerous young men surround and go after a fleeing bull, for one of them to grab and hold on to its hump with both his arms till the animal crosses the finishing line, a distance of about 50 feet. At the event, unwilling bulls are pushed into the open ground through a barricaded narrow passage – one at a time, so each bull may either run away from the arms and clutches of tamers to reach the finishing line and be counted a winner, or be subdued by one winning tamer before that line.

When Komban the Bull was let into the jallikattu arena at Thennalur, Pudukottai district, tamers had assembled outside the bull’s gate through which the animal must emerge. They were eyeing the bull and readying to grab its hump soonest as the creature came out. Tamers had nearly blocked all space for a comfortable passage-out for the bull at the gate line. It had to fiercely butt through the tamers swarming at the gate. It frantically lunged forward at the gate line, but rammed a cut trunk of a coconut tree planted like a post outside the gate. Komban instantly dropped to the ground and died on the spot in a few minutes.

Let’s not imagine Komban could not sight a high post in front of it, the one which has the girth of an elephant’s leg. The animal was somewhat blinded and disoriented in fright and so it violently hit a huge obstacle. It was like a tormented human running like hell, dashing on a wall and ending his life. Since poor Komban had no voting right and no group-leaders to speak out for it, the horrible death of Komban did not trigger any politically sponsored protest or mourning in Tamil Nadu. The beleaguered bull was owned by a politician, Tamil Nadu’s health minister C. Vijaya Baskar.

If you have a heart, you would know that jallikattu is not a sport, as sport is understood. It is sheer trauma for the poor bull forced into the event in which it desperately looks to disappear from the scene. That is not a sport for the harassed bulls. Not really one for the tamers also – 66 of them were injured, and 33 rushed to hospitals from the jallikattu venue that saw Komban last.

A citizen cornered by corrupt government officials for bribes will be keen to run away from his plight if he can, and can’t imagine he plays a sport with those blackguards. But the fleecing officials may relish such engagement with the citizen as a sport. Now fix who’s who in a jallikattu.

The ultimate power of a bull against a human was seen, like before, during the four weeks prior to Komban’s final outing. A bull that had crossed the finishing line at a jallikattu held at Palamedu, Madurai district, was still not out of tension and discomfort.  In that state it gored a spectator, a 19-year old boy, waiting at the collection point for bulls that had finished their run, and the poor boy did not survive. At two jallikattu events held in Tiruchi district, the bulls in the arena landed fatal kicks on the chest of two tamers, one of them a teen, who were challenging the animals. These are also tragic ends, resulting from our vanity, ignorance and unconcern for the gentle and majestic bull.

Komban is the latest to tell us that our society remains insensitive, not just to the dangers ignorant bull tamers take on themselves but also to the trauma and risks inflicted on innocent bulls.

We know that a man is no match for a muscled bull in physical prowess. Though stronger, the animal does not harm strangers who do not tease or disturb it. Though weaker, the bull-tamer is foolish in going at it. He is lucky the bull seldom takes on its pursuing men, unlike a lion or tiger. Those wild animals will also avoid contact with humans and slink away, but if a man closely obstructs or chases them they will maul him. This is where the gentle bull differs. With a robust neck and a sturdy pair of horns it can severely bruise and displace the flesh and bones of the onrushing tamer, but still it wants to slip out of his reach and be left alone rather than hurt him. It gores and maims or kills a man when many men totally hinder its escape and heighten its agony.

When Komban lost its life in a jallikattu, its owner Vijaya Baskar said he had cared for the bull “as if it were a member of our family”. That was not much of a humanitarian sentiment as it seemed. He probably felt like a corporate which advertised itself on an expensive race car that blew up on a racing track. But Komban would have viewed Vijaya Baskar as a member of its family, hoping he would not send it towards danger and death. Who was kind and gentle to the other?

(This article was originally published HERE)

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2018

Justice Karnan May Have Served India Well

By: R. Veera Raghavan

What would happen if, instead of Justice C S Karnan, some other High Court judge was acting so funnily and passing such ‘orders’ like Karnan? And if that other judge is not a Dalit? He could not have carried on with more than 5 per cent of what all Karnan did or said or ‘ordered’ atrociously. He would have been tackled within the judiciary early on, which would be right. He would have been sternly criticised in public by all around, which would be justified. If Karnan was given a long rope that is understandable too.

The Indian public which followed Karnan news was clear about one thing, while Karnan did not grasp another. All including Dalits knew over time that Karnan did not inspire anyone, not even an ant, with his appalling statements or ‘orders’.  Second, Karnan wrongly believed Dalits would rally around him and agitate uncontrollably if law and judges stood up to him and so he could go on saying or ‘ordering’ anything against other judges, even those of the Supreme Court. By projecting himself as a Dalit amidst his horrible conduct he was hurting poor Dalits, not espousing their cause.

In a letter to the prime minister, Karnan had named twenty judges, a few in the Supreme Court and many in High Courts, as being corrupt in office, but offered no proof against any of them.  This chiefly led to a contempt-of-court action against Karnan in the Supreme Court, before a bench of seven senior most judges of that court. He appeared once before the Supreme Court in that proceeding and spoke irrelevantly.  Then he was granted time to submit his reply to defend himself, but he neither filed a reply nor turned up at following hearings.  Meanwhile he began issuing laughable ‘orders’ against the seven judges who were trying him.  In the end the Supreme Court adjudged him guilty on 9th May.

Before ruling that Karnan was guilty of contempt, the Supreme Court did well to direct his medical examination to know if he was of sound mind and had the capacity to understand what all he was doing, from a legal point of view. Karnan declined to take a medical examination, claiming he was all well in his mind. Still, however, he continued with his outrageous ‘orders’ against those seven Supreme Court judges, asking for their medical examination too, unseating them from the Supreme Court, calling them to appear in his ‘residential court’ at Kolkata and announcing a five-year jail term for those judges. But none of Karnan’s ‘orders’ like these had any force since much earlier, at the beginning of the contempt action against him, the Supreme Court had stripped him of all his judicial and administrative powers.

If some thought Karnan was perhaps deficient in mind in legal terms – to be issuing such kinds of orders nonstop – they must look at this.  When the Supreme Court finally held Karnan in contempt and punished him with a six-month imprisonment, he did not issue one more tit-for-tat ‘order’ holding the seven Supreme Court judges in contempt of his ‘court’.  He did not also call them before his ‘court’ anymore. Instead, he approached the Supreme Court – that is, the same seven judges whom he earlier ordered as removed – to recall the judgement and punishment they handed. This shows Karnan was never legally out of his mind. All along he had carried on with his monstrous‘orders’ and defiance because he believed even the Supreme Court judges would not dare to punish him when he was taking cover under his Dalit status. But when the highest court confronted him with restraint and dignity, and punished him in the end, he realised that his hollow audacity had not shielded him. Then he quickly went into hiding to evade arrest – he is yet to be traced – and applied to the Supreme Court through his lawyer for recalling its judgement on some pleas.

Don’t you see, the moment the Supreme Court held him guilty and ordered jail for him he began acting like anyone faced with a court order, who wished to follow court procedures for lifting that order. So let no one imagine that a person out of his mind was insensitively punished by the Supreme Court.  And we should also know: By law, a medically recognized insane person is excused and let off when tried for an offence done out of such insanity.  But when mere immaturity, foolishness or arrogance are behind an offence, the offender is not excused and he must take punishment.

The Supreme Court was really lenient on Karnan. The ‘orders‘ he issued against the seven judges of the Supreme Court even as they were trying him were also acts of contempt of court.  But here the Supreme Court rightly ignored Karnan and did not launch actions against him on those fresh acts of contempt.

Some may still have a question if the Supreme Court was right in giving a long rope to Karnan, and in being so lenient on him. Yes, the court was right. It is true that poor Dalits suffer injustice in many ways in several parts of India. When the country is addressing this complex issue, Karnan was falsely crying out that he was being victimised because he was a Dalit. The judiciary had to give a clear and undoubted impression to all concerned – many of whom would not know the full facts surrounding Karnan – that Karnan was not singled out or victimised in any way and that he was himself all at fault. As several judges of the Madras High Court and of the Supreme Court patiently bore his lengthy onslaught, Karnan scaled new heights of stupidity through his successive ‘orders’, to the point no one would want to defend him.  Many in public life did not wish to speak against him so they are not misunderstood. All hoped that the judiciary should check him, and the Supreme Court did it. The court cannot do a Karnan to Karnan, and had to act slowly and soberly as we witnessed. This is a moment of quiet pride for our judiciary in doing a self-cleansing act with courage and dignity. Give a big salute to the Supreme Court and to those seven judges.

Karnan will surely be remembered for one thing. No other high ranking individual had dared to humiliate and defy the judiciary so publicly and so nonchalantly.  When the Supreme Court brings such an offender to justice and sends him to jail, it is a message to all little brothers in public life or government service who freely break laws for personal gains, that they should watch themselves. Here, though not intending, Karnan has helped showcasing the prowess and majesty of our laws and law courts, whatever the status and background of the man before the court. That way, he may have served the nation well.

{ Note: This article originally published HERE.

A comment to this article was posted by Shreepal Singh there. The edited comment is given here:

There are three elements to the Karnan saga: One – his acts as a person; Two – his acts as a Dalit; and Three – his acts as a judge. As a person Karnan gave an impression to the general public that he was daring person to challenge the established system for a good national cause (fighting corruption at high places); that notwithstanding his courage, he was the man with a disturbed personality who was unable to understand what he had undertaken to accomplish, where he had landed himself in his venture and at that point what he should do to absolve himself of any blemish. As a Dalit, he has caused more of a loss to that community by his acts than garnering of any public sympathy by creating a false general impression that Dalits – and their symbol as he was sitting at a high place like a judge of a High Court – are unreasonable people as a group. As a judge, Karnan has given a very poor impression of his knowledge of law where-under he accuses someone – his brother judges – without offering any semblance of proof whatsoever, passes allegedly judicial orders while he is divested of his judicial powers by the Supreme Court, tries his own cause by making the concerned Supreme Court judges accused before himself for committing offense against him and sentencing those accused with imprisonment. It is the height of ignorance of law. He is almost certain to go to jail as the President of India (seeing that no action is taken for so many days on his clemency petition) is not likely to pardon him. Still, by his bizarre acts he has shaken to the core the the dignity or the majesty or the credibility (in the way one likes to look at it) of the Indian judicial institutions. If you look at this episode from any angle, you will find that he has given a sever jolt to the present system of making appointment to the higher judiciary in India.  He will be remembered for a long time in the judicial history of India.}

Justice Karnan, Quite Wrong Again

By: R. Veera Raghavan

Justice C. S. Karnan is in the news, for wrong reasons again.  He made  a statement unrelated to his functions as a judge of the Calcutta High Court.  That made him look really sorry.

Seven judges of the Supreme Court sat together to enquire into a charge of contempt of court against Justice Karnan after summoning him. When he remained absent at the hearing without justification, the judges issued a bailable warrant of arrest to secure his presence in court.   Learning about the warrant he said publicly, as a party called to court, that he was being targeted since he was a “Dalit”, i.e., one belonging to certain caste groups which some other caste groups might look down upon.  Of course, no one becomes anyway low in status by birth, but that is a different issue.

Justice Karnan’s accusation against the seven Supreme Court judges is plainly unimaginable.  It can only be untrue.  He says, in effect, two things:  one, the contempt-of-court charge brought against him is groundless; two, he has been spitefully charged because he is a Dalit.

Justice Karnan has no quarrel with the law of contempt  of court, and he accepts it as a desirable law.  All he says is that he was slapped with a charge of contempt of court for dishonourable reasons even as he committed no contempt.  As one trained in law and legal procedures, he should know that first and foremost he should explain himself to show that he did not commit any contempt.   He could do that only by coming to court, and that is the way to go about for anyone similarly charged.  If he is not keen to answer the charge and merrily makes counter charges against judges who try the case, he will not convince anyone.  Assume you are driving, a traffic policeman stops you and he asks for your driving licence.  Without producing your licence if you yell at him, “You are checking my papers because of my caste!” what can anyone make out?

Look at another scenario.  A judge, also a Dalit, issues notice to someone to answer a charge of contempt of court.  The person summoned belongs to a different caste group, he refuses to answer the charge and says publicly, “The judge calls me to court out of ill will since I belong to a particular caste group”.  Here, that man is unconvincing as Justice Karnan.

I am sure there are millions of Indians who are not Dalits and who don’t feel any superiority over Dalits.  That is the reality, showing that many men and women anywhere in the world are generally good to fellow human beings.  Not to risk being misunderstood, many such good souls in India are not expressing their opinions on Justice Karnan’s reaction to Supreme Court’s move.  Their silence would not mean that Justice Karnan faces less opposition to his utterance.

Dalits who face oppression or other misfortune in life are mostly uneducated and poor, usually residing in villages.  Among them if one acquires some university education and gets to do well in life – especially if he shifts to bigger cities and works there – he will not stick with others of his group who are not so well-educated or well-placed.  He will keep more distance from them as he gets more affluent, privately relishing his good fortune among the less fortunate.   The less fortunate would also naturally shrink from the more fortunate in their group, feeling a little scared.  This happens between an affluent person and a poor person in any caste group, Dalit or non-Dalit.  This is a common human trait all over the world, in every walk of life.  This is because affluence creates a class of its own, and earns a respect of its own.  Like the Americans and the Saudi Arabians have it in the eyes of poorer nations.

So when Justice Karnan has come up in life, holds the high status of a High Court judge and is fairly affluent, it is impossible – for a worldly reason – that he will suffer discrimination or hatred at the hands of others. Certainly not from seven judges of the Supreme Court at one go.

With a false and fanciful accusation, Justice Karnan might induce some Dalits to guess a contempt action is brought against him because he is a Dalit.  He might also leave some others wondering if his brazen disrespect to Supreme Court’s authority points to a flaw in India’s public policy on appointments to high posts.  Both these lines of thinking are incorrect for different reasons, in different measures.  In any case, in the present controversy India’s poor innocent Dalits are not being helped though they are mentioned.  The consequence is as grave as any contempt of the Supreme Court. But, sadly, no remedial action can be taken by anyone in the cause of the unfortunate Dalits.

(This article is originally published HERE)

Demonetization: Modi or Manmohan Singh: Who is Credible?

By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

Did you read  Manmohan Singh’s  newspaper article  on the recent demonetization of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes?  If not, please flip through The Hindu of 9th Dec. and have a look or view it at

The government’s initiative is important, and so is the writer who was India’s prime minister for ten years before Narendra Modi assumed that post.

Manmohan Singh quotes Modi on the primary reasons for demonetisation, viz., one was to check “enemies from across the border …. using fake currency notes” and the other was “to break the grip of corruption and black money”.   He agrees saying, “Both these intentions are honourable and deserve to be supported whole-heartedly” and adds, “Counterfeit currency and black money are as grave a threat to India as terrorism and social division. They deserve to be extinguished using all the firepower at our disposal”.  So far so good.

The former prime minister faults Modi on an assumed underlying premise behind demonetisation, viz., Modi’s “false notion”, as he put it, that “all cash is black money and all black money is in cash”.  Anyone who is 18 would not believe that all cash is black money.  Did Manmohan Singh really think that Modi held a false notion that “all cash is black money”?  No, the former governor of Reserve Bank of India could not have honestly believed what he wrote.  If one imagines that “all cash” is black money, it means he thinks Reserve Bank of India routinely prints and issues black money!

Manmohan Singh could not also have believed, as he wrote, that Modi held a “false notion” that “all black money is in cash”.   Anyone who is a little older than 18 will not have that notion, and Manmohan Singh cannot be naive to think that Modi hoped all black money to be in cash.  Not just Modi, his peon and cook too should know that blackmoneywallahs gain nothing by keeping their entire illegal cash incomes in not-to-be-used bundles of paper currency.  They would enjoy enough of that income by buying gold, land, buildings or other assets and by splurging.  Some have also been caught keeping their black money in bank fixed deposits.  So Manmohan Singh was wrong in imputing these false notions to Modi.  But more than that, the former prime minister has damned himself severely.  Here is how.

Manmohan Singh writes  further: “Black money is a menace to our society that we need to eliminate. …… This is wealth that has been accumulated over years by those with unaccounted sources of income.  Unlike the poor, holders of black money have access to various forms of wealth such as land, gold, foreign exchange, etc. There have been various attempts by many governments in the past decades to recover this illicit wealth through actions by the Income Tax department, Enforcement Directorate and schemes such as Voluntary Disclosure.”  And he adds: “Evidence from these past attempts has shown that a large majority of this unaccounted wealth is not stored in the form of cash”.   What an unconscious confession!

Without saying it, but clearly implying it, Manmohan Singh admits that it is mostly during past Congress or Congress-led regimes at the Centre that black money in India was “accumulated over years”.   He admits too, indirectly, that attempts by those governments to unearth black money in the country and book offenders yielded no good results. What follows? When his party ruled the central government, people could freely generate and acquire black money, coolly convert it into other forms of assets and merrily keep that wealth, and they would not be traced and booked at any of those stages.  This showcases the sheer inefficiency, unwillingness, and possibly more, of the ruling governments of those times in battling black money.

We know that the 2G spectrum scandal at the central ministerial level, storming around minister A. Raja, heaping a huge revenue loss on the government and involving massive kickbacks – God knows how much it was, and how much of it was black money – was enacted when Manmohan Singh was prime minister.  We know too that his minister for communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, certified that the scam caused “zero loss” for the government.  Time magazine knew more.  In 2011 it gave that scandal its pride of place in its all-time list of “Top 10 Abuses of Power”, and put it second in the list behind the Watergate scandal.

Manmohan Singh implies this too, though he feels shy of saying it explicitly.  He would like us to believe that it is impossible to curtail the never-ending generation and growth of black money in the country, that no action such as demonetisation can be effective against that menace and that all any government can do is lament it like what he does.  He takes that stance by implication, so he can portray all the past Congress or Congress-led coalition governments at the Centre as doing their best to contain black money – and hope that no one may accuse those governments of inaction.  A futile hope.

Many advanced nations do not  permit  black money to be continuously generated and spread in their economies, like India does.   Those countries do not witness so much of free-wheeling corruption.  Their top government officers who have to watch over and report or act against corruption are themselves not corrupt, and that checks corruption down the line. More important, ministers who run governments in those countries are largely clean and so they inspire officers on integrity at work.  A few exceptions can always be tackled.

If a ministry is not perceived  to be clean in its dealings with businesses, many government officers will take the cue and benefit themselves financially in illegal ways.  That ministry will have no mind or energy to take serious and imaginative actions against governmental corruption and its byproducts like black money.  Officers of such a government cannot also check or go after black money.  Modi has given the impression that he is honest and determined, and so long as that impression stays many government officers would feel inspired to implement his drive against black money.  Reports coming in every day since demonetisation that unaccounted old currency notes, new currency notes, gold and other assets worth in crores are being seized from every nook and corner of the country are a testimony to Modi’s moral leadership in India’s fight against black money.

After 2014 elections, the prime minister and his ministers changed, while officers of the central government remained. How come the same officers now uncover hidden black money and suspicious wealth in large chunks through their raids and inspections across the country, while they did just a little of that under decades of previous governments, mostly Congress-propped or Congress-led?  The reason is, they derived no inspiration from those governments to go on a mission mode and act boldly and honestly in searches and seizures.

Economists and other experts have expressed varying degrees of approval or disapproval on Modi’s demonetisation and allied measures for their worth in producing results.  So, for the layman theses conflicting opinions cancel out themselves and he has to go by what he sees around and senses. India’s common people seem to see the difference between years of previous central regimes and Modi’s government now scrapping high value notes and acting against black money.  That is why, while queuing up before banks and ATM’s to withdraw small amounts of cash in a regulated post-demonetisation period, and putting up with other hardships, they have backed the party headed by Modi hugely in civic polls in three States and in Chandigarh, all held after demonetisation was announced.   This is also an answer to a good part of other comments of Manmohan Singh in his article.

Sure, swift legal action against the corrupt and the blackmoneywallahs is a warning to them, and others wanting to emulate them.  It will hold them in perennial fear that they could be caught anytime, shamed and brought to justice, and will keep most of them largely contained. That is how it works in advanced countries, and not because angels live there. So the present demonetisation and its follow-up actions will have a good preventive effect on corruption and black-money holding, and that is a huge national benefit.  That will last as long as we have a central government that shows a clean image and acts tough on corruption and black money.  Manmohan Singh has not also acknowledged this national benefit.

Wikipedia  introduces  Manmohan Singh as  an “Indian economist and politician”.   Viewing him as an “economist-turned ordinary politician” would be closer to reality.  Manmohan Singh will know it.

(More articles of R. Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai may be read at the following site)

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