•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences
An estimated 2-minute read

Prafull Goradia V. Union of India - Secular Judgment to Savor

 Email  Facebook  Tweet  Linked-in

As an outsider to Law (Engineer in US), I was pleased with yet another fantastic judgment from the Supreme Court of India's Division Bench of Honorable Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra on Prafull Goradia V. Union of India case today. Here it is in TOI: http://bit.ly/hHraVi


The Division Bench dismissed Petitioner's claim of Haj subsidies by the Government as unconstitutional.


It was an interesting asseveration by the Bench that Article 27 can be interpreted in basically two ways: Either the statute states that the taxes are expressly being collected to serve the purposes of a particular religion OR a generic statute that levies taxes for general purposes diverts substantive portions of those taxes to serve the purposes of a particular religion.


In this case, as the Division Bench pointed out, no such violation was made out in order to substantiate the claim of Unconstitutionality. At a time when partisanship rules high in Washington with potential gridlocks in the form of litigious suits, the learned Bench's quote of former US Justice Holmes, "The interpretation of constitutional principles must not be too literal. We must remember that the machinery of the government would not work if it were not allowed a little play in its joints”, was not only thought-provoking, but, very respectful of non-interference into the affairs of the Government.


Having been a long-time resident of the US, Division Bench of Justices Katju and GS Misra's argument that the "Principles of interpreting the Constitution are to some extent different from those of interpreting an ordinary statute", to me, struck very familiar the ideological divide of two main Judicial philosophies right here in Washington DC. While Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia believes in textualism of laws and originalism of Constitution wherein interpretation as per modern Zeitgeist isn't cool, Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer believes just the opposite. Besides, the current Judgment has a liberal citation of foreign Jurisprudence, which echoes more of Justice Stephen Breyer's school of thought. Further, the Division Bench owed some of its leanings on the matter by liberally citing former US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall (1755-1835)


By highlighting the fact that the Petitioner did not quantify the level of proceeds being diverted towards subsidization of Haj, the Division Bench was able to easily pulverize the Petitioner's claims. It even mildly admonished Petitioner by saying his allegations were "vague". For the record, barely a paltry 0.13% of the levied taxes were used for this purpose. As the Calcutta Telegraph reports, "In Parliament last year, foreign minister S.M. Krishna had put the Haj subsidy at Rs 611 crore for 2009-10. The figure is just 0.13 per cent of the Rs 4.65 lakh crore (revised estimates) the Centre collected in taxes in the same year."


The Bench's punctilio was evident when it put bluntly: The object of Article 27 is to maintain secularism, and hence we must construe it from that angle.


As is emblematic of Honorable Justice Markandey Katju to make edifying observations, the parting comments of the Judgment are given wide coverage by the Press today. Here, both the Justices solidly avow their faith in Secularism and how it has made India for what it is by citing the moral dilemma that existed during Partition.


Their implied notion that, for India to subsist and exist as a nation of variegated diversity, secularism is not just an ideological and expedient choice, but essentially a sine qua non


That, I think, has made this a secular judgment to savor.


Click to show 8 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.