"REVISITING" HINDUTVA/HINDUISM VERDICT
Perils & Pitfalls
By Amba Charan Vashishth
The Supreme Court (SC) of India, according to media reports, is to revisit its 3-member Bench 1995 verdict in the Manohar Joshi versus N B Patil case authored by Justice J. S. Verma declaring Joshi's statement that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra, did not amount to appeal on ground of religion”. Dealing with the scope of corrupt practices mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of People Act. SC had held that vote in the name of “Hindutva/Hinduism” did not prejudicially affect any candidate and that “Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind”. But the self-righteous self-styled 'secularists' have so far not been able to reconcile with it and digest it. They feel they have an intellect superior to that of the impartial and unbiased SC to continue to drum up their illogical logic.
Inadvertently, the decision does raise eyebrows at a time when elections to Parliament are round the corner. It is reportedly motivated by the fact that since the 1995 judgement three election petitions on the subject are pending before the apex court. Normally, these should have been disposed of as per the prevalent law. A delay amounts to denial of justice to either of the parties. It allows a person to get away with the perks and privileges he doesn't deserve and denies to the person who rightfully deserves. Such can never be the SC intention.
It may also be an accident of coincidence that the SC wishes to "revisit" the judgement just a few months after its author Justice J. S. Verma is no more.
It is erroneous to presume that SC decision foretells a reversing of the 1995 judgement. However, let us, for a moment, assume that SC takes a divergent view. In that case, while the latest may be the delivery of justice, the 1995 judgement and consequential other lower court judgements based on it would automatically amount to upstaging of justice.
The Supreme Court and the Parliament, no doubt, have every right to review and amend the laws enacted earlier on cogent reasons. Yet consistency remains the very life of a law. That is why the precedents of other court judgements are invariably cited and followed in other courts too first, to ensure that there is continuity and uniformity in the dispensation of justice and, second, to prevent confusion where a court takes one decision and another quite the opposite in identical matters causing chaos and confusion.
The enactments by parliament and pronouncements by the SC cannot afford to be transitory and temporary that could be fiddled with at any time. If the SC were to "revisit" its judgements so often, there would only be anarchy in dispensation of justice. An earlier judgement delivered by a court based on the SC verdict would, in a way, get vitiated if the same judgement were "revisited" some years later. This would amount to miscarriage of justice either in the earlier case/cases or later ones. What will happen if in the same manner and for the same reasons high courts too start exercising the same right to "revisit" or "revisit" their own earlier judgements?
In Punjab a joke goes round that 'government' means gourmint which reviews its decisions every minute. Our judicial system cannot afford to conform to that satirical definition.
It is true that change is the law of nature but it is not the nature of law to change so often, like the change of seasons. The law has to be constant and static with some sense of permanency. Laws need to be framed not in haste but with farsightedness after due consideration and thought. The lawmaking process cannot be – and should not be – so half-hearted and fragile as to need to be reviewed so often.
During the 19 months of the internal emergency imposed by the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Supreme Court at that time had played a second fiddle to her dictatorial designs at the cost of the nation's interests. In contrast, the Pakistan Supreme Court under its chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry stood by the law of the land and refused to lay prostrate before the military dictator Pervez Musharraf. In fact, the collective will and determination of Pak judiciary played a pivotal role in the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
One of the judges has, after his retirement, regretted the SC role and some of the judgements delivered at that time. These judgements continue to be the proud possessions of the Supreme Court. None has, surprisingly, so far felt the need to "revisit" those judgements and erase that black chapter in judicial history.
The perception of justice is always subjective differing with each individual or group. What is a model justice for one party is a gross injustice for the opponent one. Everybody, no doubt, has a right to demand a “revisit” on any verdict but only on the strength of any drastic change in the situation and circumstances under which it was then delivered.
The controversy over Hinduism or Hindutva flows from those who treat religion as synonymous with dharma. This is a wrong interpretation both of dharma and religion. The English dictionaries define dharma not a religion but a way of life. In fact, religion and its equivalent in Hindi and other regional languages is panth and not dharma. Even our constitution calls secularism as panthnirpekshta and notdharmanirpekshta. No wonder if tomorrow somebody wants to challenge even the dictionary meaning of a word.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Hinduism as "an individual's duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law
Hinduism & Buddhism
a : the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence : divine law
b : conformity to one's duty and nature
This Dictionary defines Hindu: "an adherent of Hinduism" and "a native or inhabitant of India"
Oxford Dictionary: "In Hinduism, dharma is seen as the cosmic law both upheld by the gods and expressed in right behaviour by humans, including adherence to the social order. In Buddhism (termed dhamma), it is interpreted as universal truth or law, especially as proclaimed by the Buddha. In Jainism, it is conceived both as virtue and as a kind of fundamental substance, the medium of motion"
This dictionary defines a Hindu: "a follower of Hinduism". .
But in another context, dharma is not religion for our 'secularists' when they refer togathbandhan (coalition) dharma quite often. At that time, they are not alluding to any religion but to dharma as a way of life in politics. If dharma in this context is not religion but a way of life, then how come that dharma turns religion when used with the word Hindu?
It is common for Indian people to declare that it is not their dharma to behave or not in a particular manner. It is individual and such a conduct has nothing to do with one's faith as a Hindu, Muslim, or Christian.
In the Hindu way of life a father may be the worshipper of Lord Shiva, mother of Lord Rama, son of Goddess Durga, his wife of Lord Krishna and so on. Yet, there is no conflict, no lack of cohesion in the family. It remains a collective, congenial whole. In Hinduism way of worship does not divide the people. Even an atheist continues to be a Hindu. Charvak who every day spoke ill of the Vedas was acknowledged as a rishiby Hindu ideologues.
Hindu dharma has resilience, tolerance and adaptability. Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira rose in revolt against some of the ills plaguing the Hindu society. Yet, they were not discarded, stoned or crucified. On the contrary, they were accepted as gods incarnate by Hindu dharma and recognised as a way of worship, a faith of a section of the followers of Hindu dharma.
Before the Muslims and Christian invasions of India this country was one nation of Hindus practising different forms of worship. Hindusthan was known and accepted as the land of Hindus all over the world. The word Hindu, therefore, signified the people who lived in this part of the world and not by the religion they practiced. No country in the world derives its name from the religion it practices, not even Pakistan.
Any person irrespective of his creed becomes an American when he/she migrates to USA. His faith is secondary. The name of our country is Bharat or Hindusthan and, therefore, everybody without distinction of creed becomes a Hindusthani. Tensions have cropped up only in those countries where the migrating minority does not wish to identify itself with the sentiments of the country they live. Australia is one such instance.
Religion has never proved to be a unifying force for the people; the way of life has. What unites India and keeps its countrymen united is the Indian way of life whether you give it a Hindu or different nomenclature. If religion had been the uniting force, Pakistan and Bangladesh would never have separated. Numerous Muslim and Christian countries enjoy separate and distinct identity, some even at loggerheads with each other, killing people of their own faith.
The precept and practice of Hindu dharma or Hindutva continue to be the same today as they were in 1995 or earlier. What has changed since then that cries for a "revisit" on the 1995 judgement — that has to be reckoned. The SC has to ponder over all these aspects. *** PS: This article has also been published in the monthly SOUTH ASIA POLITICS in its March 2014 issue.
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