Gujarat - Court reserves order on Bhoomi Pujan at HC premises

The Gujarat High Court (HC) reserved its order on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the Hindu ritual of Bhoomi Pujan at the HC premises. A Bhoomi Pujan function was held at the premises on May 1 last year to kickstart the construction of a proposed auditorium. High Court Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal were present at the function. A civil rights activist, Rajesh Solanki, had filed a petition contending that secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and performing Hindu ritual inside the premise was against the spirit of that principle.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Jayant Patel and Justice J C Upadhyay heard the arguments and then reserved its order on the same.

Senior HC Counsel Girish Patel appeared on behalf of the petitioner and argued for two hours. He said the HC is a State and cannot be identified with any religion. The Bhoomi Pujan ceremony was admittedly a Hindu ritual with a Brahmin reciting Vedic chants at the function.

Stating that the petitioner is not against any individual, Patel said, the performance of the Hindu ritual at HC has violated the secular character of the Constitution. He added that the HC has the responsibility to uphold constitutional ethos and its head can’t perform or take part in the ceremony, which is in violation of the Constitution and imperceptible encroachment of the religious rights.

He argued that if such incidents are overlooked, a series of such incidents will erode the secular character of the Constitution.

Patel argued that the Supreme Court has settled that India is a secular state, which shall not have any religion of its own, and shall not patronise, propagate or sponsor any particular religion. India shall remain completely neutral to different religions, Patel said.

He also argued that Hindu ritual at the HC function was discriminatory to the people of other religions. If people of other religions do not object to such event, it does not mean that they are not hurt, he said.

He said that if at all some religious function has to be there for larger interest, it should be on the lines of all-religion prayers.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2011 on page no. 10

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