‘Secularism is not anti-god’: Gujarat HC

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Secularism-is-not-anti-god-Gujarat-HC/articleshow/7469120.cms published on February 10, 2011

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Thursday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that had challenged the performance of religious rituals in the court campus. The court observed that “secularism” is not “anti-god.”

While dismissing the PIL, the high court has also slapped a penalty of Rs 20,000 on the petitioner, Rajesh Solanki who is a Dalit activist. The court raised doubts over bonafide intentions of the petitioner.

Rajesh Solanki had filed the PIL questioning performance of Hindu religious rituals on the high court campus on the ground that a public place should maintain its secular credentials in a secular country.

The PIL referred to the laying of foundation stone ceremony that had taken place on the high court campus situated in Sola area of Ahmedabad on May 1 last year. The function was to mark the expansion of the existing court campus.

The petition claimed that the court campus was a secular place and religious rituals – Bhoomi-pujan followed by a prayer and chanting of shlokas – should not be permitted, else the judiciary would lose its secular credentials in the public eye. The petitioner sought the performance of rituals be declared as unconstitutional by the high court.

This PIL first came up for hearing before Chief Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya, who refused to hear it saying that he too was part of the ceremony. Apart from the chief justice, the governor and many Supreme Court and high court judges were present during the function.

Later the case was heard by a bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice JC Upadhyay, who concluded that performance of rituals was intended for betterment of mankind and hence it should be viewed in this context.

Rejecting the contention of the petitioner to declare the act of rituals on court campus as unconstitutional, the judges have observed that secularism is not anti-God. Quoting ancient scriptures and judgments delivered by other courts in relation to this idea, the court has concluded that the word “dharma is not contradictory to secularism, if interpreted in a proper manner”. The court ruled out the contention that performance of religious rituals on the foundation laying ceremony was a non-secular act.

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