The Madras High Court has refused to issue a writ of quo warranto against DMK MP A. Raja, Tamil Nadu State Ministers Udhayanidhi Stalin and P.K. Sekar Babu who are continuing to hold their offices in the wake of their remarks calling for the eradication of Sanatan Dharma.

However, the Court while taking note of the remarks said, “By equating Sanatana Dharma to HIV AIDS, Leprosy, malaria and corona, the individual respondents 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”.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Anita Sumanth further noting the statements made against Sanatam Dharma, very categorically noted in the order that By seeking to eradicate Sanatana Dharma, the respondents, in effect, undertake to eradicate much that is virtuous in society. This assumes importance, since they 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”.

The following grounds were raised by the respondents to challenge the petition, and were answered by the Bench:

(i) Maintainability on the anvil of non-joinder and mis-joinder of necessary parties:

While raising a preliminary objection, it was argued that instead of the Special Secretary, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Secretariat, the appropriate authority to have been arrayed should have been ‘Secretary of the Legislative Assembly’.

Noting that the proper party to be arrayed ought to have been Secretary, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Secretariat, the bench concluded, “Thus and being the initial stage of litigation, it is very much for this Court to take a view regarding whether the proper party should be arrayed to regularize the litigation. Having considered the rival contentions, I am of the view that while the proper authority, the Secretary, must be arrayed as a party, the error committed in arraying the Special Secretary is not fatal to the cause of the petitioners, and can be corrected”.

(ii) Maintainability in the context of locus:

It was argued by the respondents that the Writ Petitions were filed by officials of the Hindu Munnani, and were thus politically motivated and not maintainable.

However, objecting to the same, the bench observed, “…whatever may be their political affiliations, the Petitioners cannot be estopped from pursuing the Writ Petitions for Quo Warranto as any citizen can question the authority under which a public post is held”.

(iii) Maintainability on the ground of apparent satisfaction of the provisions relating to qualification:

It was argued by the Respondents that the prayer for quo warranto could be maintained only if the individual respondents do not hold the requisite qualifications as prescribed under Article 173 of the Constitution in the case of the MLAs or Article 84 of the Constitution in the case of the MP, or under the relevant provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 (RP Act).

Although agreeing to the argument of the respondents, the bench noted, “…the arguments of the petitioners do warrant a deeper study and appreciation and it would, in my considered view, be an over simplification of the matter to state that an apparent and peripheral reading of the provisions are all that is required in a matter of this nature. Casting the writ petitions away at this stage would be a miscarriage of justice”.

(iv) Admissibility of electronic evidence

The admissibility of the electronic evidence was challenged on the ground that it is sans certification under the provisions of the Evidence Act, 1872. . It was alleged that the digital evidence is truncated and incomplete, modified/digitally edited/doctored by a third party and constitute disputed questions of fact.

However, the bench categorically noted, “…there has been no contra evidence produced by the individual respondents to support the allegation of tampering with the evidence. After all, the individual respondents are best equipped with the knowledge of what had been stated from the podium. Except for the bald allegations made, there is nothing to commend the position that the offending statements have been doctored and the transcription filed is incorrect… Hence this court proceeds on the basis that the video clips as well as the texts represent a true version of what had transpired”.

The bench further highlighting the statements in dispute said that the importance of factual accuracy and historical context in public discourse should be taken into note, especially when made by individuals in positions of power like ministers and MPs. It said that the same emphasizes the need for constructive dialogue based on a thorough understanding of the subject matter, rather than promoting misinformation or destructive rhetoric.

“Whatever may be their personal ideology, members holding Constitutional positions can espouse only one morality and that is, the morality propounded by the Constitution. The participation in the convention, and subsequent statements of the HR & CE Minister are particularly exceptionable. The factum of participation by itself, connotes endorsement of the theme and purpose of the convention which militates violently with his Constitutional position as well as his position as the avowed benefactor of Hindu religious endowments”, the bench also noted in the matter.

The Bench while narrating the history, and quoting Swami Vivekananda from his book on Hinduism further stated, "Sanatana Dharma thus forms the very core of Hinduism and the two, Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism are immutable, one and the same".

However, the bench was of the opinion that the conclusions are unambiguous that the offending statements spew hate against a particular community, the Hindus and constitutes dis/misinformation. But the same could not be stretched to justify a writ of quo warranto, as then it would be reading into the Constitution and the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, the disqualification of hate speech and perpetration of mis/disinformation.

“The effort of any reasonable, fair and well intentioned leader must be aimed towards identifying the commonalities of different sections of the people so as to unite, rather than divide them. Though criticism is essential for growth, it must be constructive to ensure that progress, rather than destruction, is the destination. This Court agrees unequivocally that there are inequities based on caste present in society today and that they are to be eschewed. However, the origins of the caste system as we know it today are less than a century old. The State of Tamil Nadu has 370 registered castes and the State is a cacophony of pulls and pressures by groups of persons claiming allegiance to one caste or the other”, the bench further observed in the matter.

The question that arose to be adjudicated upon was whether it is contrary to Constitutional ideals principles for Constitutional functionaries to vow to annihilate a section of their own people who follow a particular faith, and whether such statements violate the promise of secular values under the Constitution. The same was unambiguously answered by the Court in the affirmative.

Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin had called for the eradication of Sanatan Dharma and compared it to mosquitoes, dengue, corona, and malaria while the DMK leader and Lok Sabha MP from the State A Raja had allegedly stated that, "Udhayanidhi Stalin was soft in comparing and claiming that it should be eradicated like malaria and dengue. But these diseases don't have a social stigma. To be honest, leprosy was seen as disgusting and so was HIV. So, we need to see this as a disease ridden with social plights like HIV and leprosy".

As per the pleas, the words clearly expressed their hatred towards the Hindus who follow Sanatana Dharma. Furthermore, stipulates that persons with such hatred towards a particular faith with the intention to eradicate the faith from society, cannot hold any responsible post especially the most responsible and powerful posts like they hold.

The petitioners claimed that the said speech thus violated the principles of Fundamental Duties enumerated in Article 51-A (c)(e) of the Constitution of India which casts certain mandatory duties. The plea while narrating another incident where A Raja had also claimed in a meeting that all Hindus are sons of prostitutes says that it attracts criminal offences under Section 295(A) of IPC. It was also stated in the plea that as MPs and MLAs elected by people belonging to various faiths, they are supposed to be a representative of every citizen of the State and they cannot be an inspiration for others to commit similar criminal offence.

The three writ petitions have been filed by V.P. Jayakumar, Kishore Kumar and T. Manohar, State Secretaries of Hindu Munnani, in their personal capacity. The Writ Petitions have been filed through Advocate A. Jagadeeswari and others.

Cause Title: Kishore Kumar v. P.K. Sekar Babu

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