In Defense of Prof TJ.Joseph

via Dr Hilda Raja M.A.Ph.D published on September 12, 2010

The case of Prof Joseph has been widely reported but not sufficiently defended and the media somehow has hurriedly tried to take leave of this blatant injustice leaving the victim to cope and to grapple with this double punishment inflicted on him .What is the gross injustice wrought on Prof Joseph by the Newman College of Thodupuza(Kerala)-a minority catholic college in Kerala? This is the main cruz of the whole issue which needs be scrutinized.

It is natural justice of law that one cannot be punished twice for the same offence. The offence here is that Prof Joseph had hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims. For this offence his right hand was chopped by the Muslim fundamentalists. It was a gruesome criminal act. One wonders if the criminals have been arrested and an FIR slapped on them for this criminal violence on the person of Prof Joseph. No one can take law into one’s hands. If Prof Joseph had hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims it is for the offended to file a case against him. They could have also approached the college to take action against him. It is also pertinent to raise the question if Prof Joseph had the Freedom of Expression guaranteed by the Constitution?

On the other hand the Muslim fundamentalists took law into their own hands and punished Prof Joseph. This is against the laws of the country. So the perpetrators cannot go scot free for this criminal act.

How has the Minority managed Newman College dealt with those whose religious sentiments were hurt by Prof Joseph and hence indulged in the gruesome chopping of his hand? It looks that the Minority College stood by the perpetrators of this criminal act and added to Prof Joseph’s woes by dismissing him. Has the management done justice? Is the management right in his dismissal? Has the management nothing to say about one of its teachers being physically attacked and his right hand chopped? Was there a condemnation at least of this? Has the police arrested the criminals?

Had the management taken cognizance of Prof Joseph’s offence of hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslims then it should have take action before the chopping of his hand. Even in such a case the offence does not warranty  dismissal. Procedures should be followed. He should have been given a show cause notice to explain-and if the explanation given by him is not satisfactory then some punitive action could have been initiated like suspension-or apology etc. But certainly it does not call for a dismissal.

Why had the Newman College taken such a drastic step and slapped an out of proportion punishment on Prof Joseph denying him his livelihood? Why had it resorted to a one-sided offensive action? Why had it not followed procedures? The simple answer to all these is that it is a Minority managed institution. The Minority institutions have a wrong assumption that the Minority Rights guaranteed by the Constitution give them sweeping powers of dictatorship and arbitrariness which is completely wrong.

First and foremost Minority Rights of Art 30 confer a collective right on the community. It is from the thousands of Josephs and Thomases that the minority rights flow from. It is a community right and to use that right against the same community which has to be safeguarded and protected is unjust.

The assumption of Minority managements is that the Minority rights are absolute. They forget that individual rights cannot be subsumed within the Minority Rights.It is a travesty of justice to think that Minority Rights are topmost in the hierarchy of Rights enshrined in the Constitution.All Rights have to be read together and there is no hierarchy of Rights. The right to manage and administer cannot include mismanagement and maladministration. The protection of services of the teachers is stipulated by the Kerala Education Bill.

The State can intervene in gross injustices like dismissal from services if the management has not referred the case to a competent authority prior to dismissal. The salaries of the teachers come from the State and in case a college does not follow the rules then Aid to that college can be stopped. This had been upheld by the Supreme Court in 1957 when it made permissible of the clauses 10, 11 and 12 of the Kerala Bill.

Prof Joseph is thinking of going to court to seek justice. This is at his present physical condition going to be a tortuous proposal. Remedy must be found within the Minority community and the Minority institution. The University of Kerala cannot be overlooked by the Newman College and the churches cannot use their pulpits to give a one sided version-namely only that of the Managements. This is often resorted to by Minority education institutions to canvass the opinion of the ‘flock’ in their favor and misuse the pulpits.

Here is a case when a minority management institution misuses the Minority rights. It is a wake up call to the Minority community to realize that the Minority rights have been time and again misused against them-from refusal of admissions to heaping of injustices, from poor service conditions to termination of services of the same minority community members. The Minority managements have abused this right by the denial of Fundamental Rights to individuals and make it look as though the Constitution is only about Minority Rights. Individual Freedom of speech and Expression-Equality are bulldozed in the process of the mismanagement and maladministration of the Minority Rights.

A relevant question to the above incident- The Newman College seems to be ultra sensitive to the hurting of the religious sentiments of the Muslim community-or  is it equally sensitive to anyone hurting the religious sentiments of any other religious community? If so I have not seen or heard a word uttered by this Newman College against M.F.Hussain’s painting – depicting hindu gods and goddesses in offensive and obscene postures. In that case the drum of Freedom of Expression was beaten loud and long by the media and others. So the management of Newman College seems to be biased and is not all that sensitive to such offence of hurting another’s religious sentiments. There seem to be an ulterior motive to the whole episode apart from the gross injustice of the Newman Minority college of Kerala-in God’s own country.

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