Chennai (Tamil Nadu):
Amid the debate and political row over DMK Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin’s comments, the Madras High Court has declared that Sanatana Dharma is a set of “eternal duties” which can be collated from multiple sources related to Hinduism or to those who practice the Hindu way of life, and includes “duty to the nation, duty to the king, duty of the king to his people, duty to his parents and gurus, care of the poor and all a bunch of other homework.”
Justice N Seshasayee said in his September 15 order that the court was aware of the “very vocal and sometimes vociferous debates over the proponents and antis of Sanatana Dharma” and that the court could not help but reflect with genuine concern to what was happening.
The court also said that when freedom of expression is exercised in areas related to religion, it is necessary to ensure that no one is harmed and that “freedom of expression cannot be hate speech “.
“Somewhere the idea seems to have caught on that Sanatana Dharma is solely and solely about promoting casteism and untouchability. Untouchability in a country of equal citizens cannot be tolerated, and even if it is considered as allowed somewhere in the principles of “Sanatana dharma”, he still cannot have space to stay, since Article 17 of the Constitution has declared that untouchability has been abolished. This is part of the fundamental right” , the court said.
“And, under Article 51A(a), it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to ‘respect the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions…’. Therefore, untouchability, whether inside or outside Sanatana Dharma, can no longer be Constitutional, although, unfortunately, it still exists,” he added.
The court referred to petitioner Elangovan’s arguments and said that he had argued with considerable force that Sanatana Dharma nowhere endorses or promotes untouchability, and that it only emphasizes the practitioners of the Hinduism so that they treat everyone equally.
“As religious practices evolve over time, some bad or bad practices can creep in without realizing it. These are the weeds that need to be removed. But why should the crop be cut?” – This in brief is the gist of the arguments of the learned counsel,” the court noted.
The court was hearing a petition challenging a circular issued by a local government college asking girl students to share their thoughts on the topic ‘Opposition to Sanatana’ on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister and founder of DMK, CN Annadurai.
The court decided the plea after observing that the circular had already been withdrawn by the college.
“This Court is aware of the very vocal, and sometimes vociferous, debates over proponents and anti-Sanatana Dharma. It has also largely understood Sanatana Dharma as a set of “eternal duties”, and that it cannot be attributed to specific literature, but must be collected from multiple sources which either relate to Hinduism or are accepted by those who practice the Hindu way of life,” the court said.
“This includes duty towards the nation, duty towards the king, duty of the king towards his people, duty towards his parents and gurus, care of the poor and many other duties. If the subject chosen by the circular attacked is now tested in terms of these duties, this would then mean that all these duties are liable to be destroyed. Should not a citizen love his country? Does he not have a duty to serve his nation “Should the parents not be taken into care? With genuine concern about what is happening, this Court could not help but consider it,” the order said.
The Court said it was conscious that every citizen enjoyed a fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
“While the right to freedom of expression is inalienable, it is also important to emphasize that everyone is properly informed, as this adds value to what is said. It should be remembered that the framers of the Constitution did have not consciously made the right to freedom of expression a right “It is an absolute right. They limited it to Article 19(2), the order said.
Article 25 grants all citizens the fundamental right to practice any religion.
“Every religion is based on faith, and faith, by its nature, accommodates irrationality. Therefore, when freedom of expression is exercised in matters of religion, it is necessary to ensure that no one be injured,” the court said.
“In other words, freedom of expression cannot be hate speech, as the honorable Supreme Court has warned. Users of freedom of expression should not ignore these aspects when “They are exercising their right. If this is ignored, the course of any debate will be derailed and the objective behind it will lose its importance,” he adds.
The court said it would be valuable if freedom of expression encouraged calm and healthy public debate and helped society move forward.
“How is freedom of speech perceived these days? If we take as a basis the freedom of speech expressed through social media, anyone has little to do with science, rockets or space will lecture on rocket science. also factored into the right to free speech, but it may be helpful to get some attention and not push it beyond that.
“It would be appreciable if freedom of expression encouraged calm and healthy public debate and helped society move forward in the direction envisaged by the Constitution. Ultimately, every citizen traces his or her existence to the Constitution, and is therefore of its duty to respect its values, its philosophy and to respect its spirits without compromise. This must not be forgotten. I hope that this will prevail,” the order reads.
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