Read why Madras HC refused to issue writ of quo warranto against A. Raja, Udhayanidhi Stalin and P.K. Sekar Babu for their remarks against Sanatana Dharma

Madras High Court

Madras High Court: In three writ petitions filed calling upon DMK MP A. Raja, Tamil Nadu State Ministers Udhayanidhi Stalin and P.K. Sekar Babu (‘individual respondents’)to show cause under what authority of law they are holding the post of the Member of Parliament (‘MP’) and Ministers of the Tamil Nadu State and also as a Member of Legislative Assembly (‘MLA’) respectively, Anita Sumanth,J. while refusing to issue writ of ‘quo warranto’ against the ministers , as the Court is bound by the letter of law while considering the prayer for quo warranto, it said that the list of disqualifications under Sections 8 to 11-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 becomes sacrosanct and constitutes a Lakshman rekha that cannot be breached.

However, the Court remarked that, by equating Sanatana Dharma to HIV AIDS, Leprosy, malaria and corona, the Ministers have revealed an alarming lack of understanding of Hinduism. Their statements are perverse, divisive and contrary to Constitutional principles and ideals and tantamount to gross dis or misinformation.

P.K. Sekar Babu is an MLA holding the post of Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. Adimuthu Raja is a MP, and Udhayanidhi Stalin is an MLA holding the post of Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports Development.

The Petitioners are aggrieved by the participation of P.K.Sekar Babu and Udhayanidhi Stalin, in a Convention entitled ‘Convention for the destruction of Sanatana Dharma’ conducted by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association, a wing of the Communist Party of India, in 2023 and their statements referring to, and comparing Sanatana Dharma to virulent diseases.

Whether the offending statements amount to dis/misinformation and hate speech?

The Court said that phrase ‘Sanatana Dharma’ thus means an ‘eternal or perpetual, value system or code of conduct’. The use of the word ‘Sanatana’ as a standalone expression is thus confusing as, it is only if both terms are used together, as ‘Sanatana Dharma’, that the phrase would have the desired meaning. It is timeless and pervades all life forms irrespective of barriers, divisions or differences.

Further, the Court said that Dharma is universal in application, irrespective of the faith of an individual. Universal values, such as honesty, integrity, respect for elders and compassion, to name a few, elevate the quality of society in general and are virtues that are timeless in application.

The Court remarked that the principles of Sanatana Dharma are contained in the Vedic texts that are in Sanskrit, the effort to understand, at least peripherally, the primary texts with the assistance of authentic commentaries by Skandaswamy, Sayanar, Bhattabhaskar or other respected commentators should have been undertaken if one is to have a proper understanding of the principles. Translations and unauthenticated commentaries will just not do. The submissions put forth by the individual respondents make it clear that no such effort has been taken. Instead, popular notions such as the Aryan invasion theory and others are being mechanically articulated without any real, in-depth study to back them up.

After examining the sample study of the original Vedic texts undertaken by senior professors, the Court noted that prima facie, the phrase ‘Sanatana Dharma’ has always been used in the context of high moral values and virtuous living. There is no material to lead to the conclusion that that phrase was used only in the context of the Varna system or to propagate unfair and inequitable divisions of society in any manner. While Rig Veda provides for a division of castes, such classification is based on avocation and not on the birth of a person.

The Court said that while it is correct to state that the Rig Veda provides for a division of castes, such classification is based on avocation and not on the birth of a person. there are no authoritative texts, commentaries or any material to indicate that the individual respondents had undertaken any study worth its name to come to that conclusion

Thus, the Court concluded that the restrictive meaning attributed to the phrase ‘Sanatana Dharma’ is clearly erroneous, as Sanatana Dharma connotes that eternal, perpetual and universal code of conduct that is uplifting, noble and virtuous.

Whether Sanatana Dharma is different and distinct from Hinduism?

The Court said that while Sanatana Dharma, is understood as the universal and perpetual code of virtuous conduct propagated from times immemorial, the term ‘Hindu’ is a development far later in time. Those who lived on the banks of the river Sindhu (Indus), were practitioners of Sanatana Dharma. The word ‘Sindhu’ came to be modified over the years by foreign invaders to ‘Hindu’ and in time, became associated with the people living in that area. As the Hindus/practitioners of Sanatana Dharma expanded their area of residence, they carried with them the tenets of Sanatana Dharma. Thus, Sanatana Dharma forms the very core of Hinduism and the two, Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism are immutable, one and the same. This is not to say that those that lived elsewhere were bereft of a virtuous code of conduct. Tamil literature has enough and more reference to ‘Aram’, celebrated and practiced diligently by the people. The principles of Sanatana Dharma and Aram are thus premised on similar value systems of high thinking and a virtuous way of life.

The Court said that by seeking to eradicate Sanatana Dharma, the respondents undertake to eradicate much that is virtuous in society. Since these are utterances by persons holding Constitutional posts and the apprehension is that the full power of the State machinery would be utilised for this purpose. This is indeed an alarming situation. While there may be ideological differences between persons holding power, the differences are expected to be based on a thorough understanding of the system being critiqued and importantly, to be constructive and not destructive of any faith. Statements made in public by sitting Ministers and MPs must be factually and historically accurate.

The Court further said that whatever their personal ideology may be, members holding Constitutional positions can espouse only one morality and that is, the morality propounded by the Constitution. Participation in the convention, by itself, connotes endorsement of the theme.

The Court said that any reasonable, fair and well-intentioned leader must be aimed at identifying the commonalities of different sections of the people to unite, rather than divide them. Though criticism is essential for growth, it must be constructive to ensure that progress, rather than destruction. If the leaders in a State wish to lead an egalitarian land with equal sharing of resources among all the people, they must set an example by exhibiting fairness in approach, moderation in speech and a sincere desire to understand the differences between their people.

The Court also said that divisions based on caste are deeply entrenched in State of Tamil Nadu and the State must undoubtedly do all in its power to eliminate such evils.

After taking note of Articles 84, 164, 173, 191 of the Constitution, and the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the Court said that a disqualification fastened upon a candidate can be under the list of disqualifications enumerated under Sections 8 to 11A only ‘and on no other ground’. The Court said that the offending statements of the individual respondents spew hate against a particular community, the Hindus and constitute dis/misinformation. However, these conclusions cannot be stretched to justify a writ of quo warranto. Thus, the relief of quo warranto as sought for by the petitioners is premature as no cause of action arises at this juncture of time for such issuance. The relief sought thus cannot be granted, as the Court is bound by the letter of law while considering the prayer for quo warranto. The list of enumerated disqualifications becomes sacrosanct and constitutes a Lakshman rekha that cannot be breached.

The Court noted that the petitioners have initiated multifarious actions as against the offending statements. The matter has been raised before the Supreme Court, which has issued notice to the respondents. A petition seeking disqualification is also stated to be pending before the Governor. Thus, the Court said that it must be left to that authority to decide the issue on disqualification having regard to all appropriate parameters.

The Court noted that the respondents have urged that the freedom to practice religion guaranteed under Article 25 is subservient to other freedoms including freedom of speech as guaranteed under Article 19. The Court said that this cannot be taken as a sanction for unconstitutional, insensitive and erroneous statements, derogatory of particular faith, particularly from those holding Constitutional posts.This argument cannot be seen to be advanced by holders of high Constitutional posts to justify offensive statements made against persons of a particular religious faith.

[Kishore Kumar v. P.K. Sekar Babu, 2024 SCC OnLine Mad 366, Order dated 06-03-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioners:. Advocate G.Karthikeyan, Senior Counsel G.Rajagopalan,.Senior Counsel T.V.Ramanujan

For Respondents: Senior Counsel N. Jothi, Advocate Viduthalai, Central Government Standing Counsel K. Ramanamurthy, Senior Counsel P.Wilson, Additional Advocate General R.Shunmugasundaram

Buy Constitution of India  HERE

Constitution of India

Must Watch

maintenance to second wife

bail in false pretext of marriage

right to procreate of convict

Criminology, Penology and Victimology book release

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.