Lawyer-minister Arun Jaitley faces heat for implying that religious beliefs are good enough reason to flout Supreme Court


The Sabarimala temple row appears to have exposed the BJP on the need to respect the rule of law in the country. The party that celebrated the top court’s verdict on Triple Talaq and called it a major victory for Muslim women has now gone full throttle against the country’s highest court for its judgement allowing Hindu women to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Arun Jaitley

On Saturday, BJP President Amit Shah faced flak for issuing a chilling warning to the Supreme Court for its Sabarimala verdict. Speaking in Kannur after inaugurating a party office for the BJP, Shah expressed his displeasure on the Kerala government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court’s order, allowing women’s entry into Sabarimala temple.

He told the gathering, “I want to tell governments and the court. Governments and court should issue orders that can be implemented. Orders that attack the beliefs of people should not be passed.”

The same day, another very powerful man in the central government implied that religious beliefs were good enough reason for people to flout the Supreme Court. Delivering his 1st Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, himself a lawyer, said, “This is a global debate. This is not a debate only in India. It’s a debate between the constituionalists and the devotees. And if I sum up the debate, taking some liberties with words, constitutionalists believe that first there’s the Supreme Court, thereafter there’s a God. The devotees belief otherwise. And, therefore, how to reconcile the two, I quite realise that there will always be grey areas left. And a reconciliation will always be a challenge.”

A union minister and himself a noted Supreme Court lawyer, Jaitley implying that the Supreme Court’s orders could be flouted if they were against religious beliefs of individuals, earned him plenty of criticism from journalists and lawyers. Lawyer Karuna Nundy wrote, “Our most prominent Cabinet Minister cites religious convictions as good enough reason to flout an SC order. Bring on the sati, the instant triple talaq.”

Journalist Suhasini Haidar asked, “Is the Finance Minister implying that not following India’s constitution and courts is a choice?”

Statements by Shah and Jaitley assume significance in light of Sabarimala devotees violently attacking women while stopping them from entering the temple, in a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s order. These comments may also be an indication on how the BJP will react in the event that the Supreme Court delivers an unfavourable judgement on the Ayodhya dispute. This seems to be a clear sign yet by the BJP that it will not hesitate to disobey the Supreme Court’s order in the event that it doesn’t allow the construction of the Ram Temple at the site where Babri Masjid existed until 6 December 1992. Faced with growing disenchantment amongst the public due to poor governance, the BJP has upped the ante on the Ram Temple, in a bid to supposedly polarise the sentiments of the Hindu community.

On 6 December 1992, thousands of Hindutva terrorists, supported by top BJP leaders, had attacked the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya to demolish it completely. The development had caused widespread riots across India, killing thousands of people, mostly Muslims.


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