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Shankaracharya and equality before law

Shankaracharya and equality before law

Author: J.G. Arora
Publication: Organiser
Date: January 24, 2005
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=61&page=22

Media's one-sided approach towards Shan-karacharya's case has pained Hindu society.

Though it is for the courts to determine whether Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, the 69th Peethadhipati of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram is guilty or innocent, and though everyone is presumed to be innocent till found guilty, a section of the media has already pronounced him guilty.

A section of the print and electronic media is touting the maxim of 'equality before law' to support its contention that no special consideration be shown to the Kanchi seer.

The said legal dictum of 'equality before law' is laudable and certainly deserves to be applied in Jayendra Saraswati's case as well.

Nevertheless, though as per the law of the land, Jayendra Saraswati is not entitled to any special treatment; it is equally imperative that he is not denied the rights he is entitled to as a citizen of this country since 'equality before law' is the first Fundamental Right as per Article 14 of the Constitution of India which stipulates that, "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law, or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India."

Safeguards for Individual Liberty

In order to protect an individual against any misuse of its powers by the State, the law of the land has provided enough safeguards.

As per Article 20 (3) of the Constitution of India, "No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself."

And as per Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, "No confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence."

Though the confession made before the police officer is not admissible as evidence before the court, most of the media prominently declared that Jayendra Saraswati had 'confessed' his crime during interrogation by the police authorities.

Media's 'Blitzkrieg'

The media has treated Jayendra Saraswati's, the Shankracharya's, arrest as a unique opportunity to launch a full-fledged attack to denigrate and malign him and the hallowed institution he represents, as also other Hindu institutions.

In a democracy, the media, i.e. the 'fourth estate' is supposed to function as the guardian of individual liberty against the misuse, if any, of the State might. But in Shankaracharya's case, a section of media seems to have taken over the role of the prosecution projecting him and Kanchipuram Peetham in a negative light, and forgetting that as per the law of the land, no 'accused' is a 'criminal' till convicted by a court of law. The sad fact is that to give its version in the matter, Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram had to issue a paid advertisement in various publications showing the media's one-sided approach on the issue.

Media's partisan approach has hurt Hindu feelings. Apart from pursuing its anti-Hindu agenda, the said media is feeding the nation with falsehood and misinformation about Kanchipuram Peetham, the hallowed institution of such a long and distinguished standing.

Conviction and Convenience

Concept of 'equality before law' should be a matter of conviction, and not a matter of convenience. Nevertheless, the said media's sanctimonious concern for 'equality before law' and 'rule of law' is a matter of convenience, and keeps on changing with the changes in individuals involved.

As discussed below, the media's concern for 'equality before law' is fake and is expressed only on a selective basis.

During the eighties of the last century, over one thousand Hindus were killed by the terrorists in Kashmir forcing terrorised Hindus to flee from Kashmir. Both print and electronic media have been silent over this national disaster. Where is the 'equality before law' for Kashmiri Hindus who have faced genocide in Kashmir, and have been evicted from Kashmir to become refugees in their own country? And the same media as also the human rights organisations are silent about these murders as also about the legal rights of Kashmiri Hindus.

And the same media created no commotion when to address Muslim uproar over the Supreme Court's judgement reported as Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum (All India Reporter, 1985, Supreme Court page 945), the then Congress government at the Centre passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 in order to nullify the Supreme Court's said judgement.

Why not the 'Uniform Civil Code'?

These very angels of 'equality before law' do not support the long pending constitutional direction contained in Article 44 to formulate the 'uniform civil code' which will boost the doctrine of 'equality before law'.

Need for enactment of the uniform civil code has repeatedly been emphasised by the Supreme Court vide a number of its judgements including the judgements reported as Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, Smt. Sarla Mudgal, president, Kalyani and others v. Union of India and others (All India Reporter, 1995, Supreme Court page 1531) and John Vallamattom and another v. Union of India (All India Reporter, 2003 Supreme Court, page 2902).

And yet the same media would not write or utter even a word in favour of uniform civil code though its enactment would indisputably foster the cause of 'equality before law'.

And these custodians of 'equality before law', and 'rule of law' are equally silent over illegal infiltration of crores of Bangladeshis into India threatening the creation of one more Islamic country on Indian soil. And they have responded to this menace of perilous demographic invasion with denial, deception and negation.

Yes, as per the sublime concept of 'equality before law', everyone is equal before law, and therefore, Jayendra Saraswati is not entitled to any special or privileged treatment. But it is equally vital that rule of law prevails and the Kanchi seer is allowed all the fundamental and human rights any other citizen of this country is entitled to.

Or is it that for some sections in India, only the terrorists, anti-national elements and Bangladeshi infiltrators are entitled to fundamental and human rights?

(The author is Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Retd.) and can be contacted at jgarora@vsnl.net

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