An Indian of Gujarati origin, Kantilal Bhagabhai Patel, has been thrown out of a prominent judicial body in New Zealand for his Islamophobic social media posts. Patel has lost his membership of the Wellington Justices of Peace (JP) Association after some of his social media posts were found to be anti-Muslim in nature.
A report by local newspaper The Indian News said that Ann Clark, who is the Vice President of the Wellington Justices of Peace Association, had confirmed his removal from the prestigious body.
Clark told the newspaper, “The Association received a complaint and it was investigated. Mr Patel is no longer a member of the Wellington JP Association.”
She added, “Wellington Justices of the Peace Association has referred the matter to the national body representing Justices of the Peace and asked them to consult with the Ministry of Justice.”
Clark had earlier expressed her horror in an email to a complainant, who objected to Patel’s Islamophobic social media posts. Responding to the complainant, she had written, “We were appalled at the posts. We have completed our investigation and have concluded that these posts were not consistent with the standards expected of a Justice of the Peace. Mr Patel has been advised of that and the consequences for him. We are in the process of dealing with that. As you will appreciate not all the usual government systems are working at this time. Justices of the Peace are appointed through a government process and to cancel that appointment is also a government process. So in the meantime I hope you are willing to accept the apologises of the Wellington Justices of the Peace Association for the actions of this now former member of our Association.”
Some of Patel’s Islamophobic social media posts had included condoning of calls for the economic boycott of Muslims in India.
Roles of a JP in New Zealand include witnessing of documents, taking of declarations and swearing of affidavits or affirming affirmations. A limited number of JPs also undertake judicial duties within the District Court with their functions including jurisdiction determined by statute, including minor offences and some traffic cases, issue of remands and bail, hearing of undefended cases and presiding over defended trials.
In its editorial note, The Indian News wrote, “The Indian News urges everyone in New Zealand, in India, and elsewhere, to spread the message of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.”
The New Zealand-based newspaper was referring to a famous tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that coronavirus did not see ‘race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.’
Modi’s extraordinary tweet had come in light of widespread criticism by several prominent Arab nationals over the growing Islamophobia by Hindutva supporters amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Hindutva supporters and India’s right-wing TV media had made desperate attempts to blame Muslims for the spread of the deadly virus in India. Several Indians working in the Gulf region were found to be mocking Islam. Many of them had to lose their jobs before being sent back to India.
The news of tough action being taken against a bigot in New Zealand comes after a person of Indian origin was punished in Canada. One Ravi Hooda was thrown out of a school body and his contract with one of the leading real estate companies in the North American country was also terminated.