Controversy Regarding Fixing of An Event by CJI on Good Friday
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I usually do not write on such topics as these are controversial and more of political / religious nature then relating to banking. However, I could not resist this time as this issue can snowball into major issue even in banks, where people from all faith work and we do not have common holidays across all States in India. Let us suppose you are a native of Kolkatta and are posted in West Bengal, but you are asked to attend a meeting chaired by CMD at Mumbai Head Office on a day when it is a religious holiday in West Bengal (say long holidays during Durga Puja). However, the same is a working day in Mumbai as per NI Act, as such religious festival has little following in Mumbai.
Will CMD exempt all the people from West Bengal / Orissa / Assam / Bihar to attend the event, as it is a holiday in above States or he must re-schedule such a meeting by a week or fortnight? Such things everybody has confronted in banking service. We meekly attend the same and never raise the issue even with CMD, let alone write to PM.
However, a new controversy has been started by Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph by writing a letter to Prime Minister for scheduling of three-day long judges conference by Chief Justice of India. during the holy period for Christians. Interestingly, CJI has got support from a former Supreme Court Judge Justice KT Thomas, who is said to have asked why Christians cannot work on Good Friday. "In America, where 98 percent are Christians, Good Friday is a working day. Christians can attend Church service and go to work. But in India we are obsessed with holiday culture. I am totally opposed to this holiday mania that we suffer from," Justice Thomas said.
The controversy can soon snowball into a major issue as Prime Minister being from BJP is already under attack from minority communities. Whatever stand he takes, he is likely to be pulled by opposition and / or own party.
The post of the Supreme Court Judge is a one of the most respected and coveted jobs and he is considered as far above the petty issues of holidays, as Courts in India, in addition to usually festival holidays, also already enjoy summer and winter holidays from British periods. All this is inspite of the fact that over 4 crore cases are said to be pending in Indian Courts.
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The major focus of the whole debate are the following words which have appeared in the press and said to be part of the letter to PM. Justice Joseph added that though it is “too late to reschedule the events. But being the guardian of Indian secularism, I request your honour to kindly have in mind these concerns while scheduling events and benevolently show equal importance and respect to the sacred days of all religions which are also declared as national holidays. I have shared these concerns with the honourable Chief Justice of India as well.”
We know bankers are required to work on so many holidays irrespective of the sacred days and they are also asked to sit late on lot of many such sacred days. Certainly, there is a need to respect the religious sentiments of all religions as India is a secular country. In Hinduism it is believed that there are 33 crore Gods. However, question arises, what will happen, if people raise the issue that the following days are also sacred as they have faith in that particular type of religion / God:-
(a) Hindu MPs, MLAs may soon ask not to schedule any Lok Sabha / Rajya Sabha sessions during Navrataras as these are sacred days for them;
(b) Muslim community may plea that the period of one month when they have Ramzan and keep rozas is the most sacred and thus no functions of whatsoever should be scheduled for all those days.
(c) Women across India may object to holding any function on Karva Chauth and Raksha Bandhan as these are sacred for them and they want to be with their family. Male members can say on these occasions that they need to be with their wives and sisters owing to religious sentiments.
(d) Similarly people from other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism , Paris too will come out with demands not to schedule any events on their sacred days.
Above all, a person who claims to be totally Secular, may say that he believes in all these faiths equally and he will not attend any function or event on any of these days, as he wishes to be with family during all these days !
Huge number of population working in Defence services (a large number of them having been posted on border with no leave for family even during sacred days), Railways, Transport, Hospitals, Banks, are posted far away from their families and are forced to remain at the place of posting and working on such days also due to exigencies of work.
Writing a letter to a PM on such issue and creating flutter is something which could have been easily avoided by Honourable Judge by calling his family to join in Delhi and enjoy celebrations and also attending to the event. On many occasions, when it was extremely difficult to get leave from Bank, we have called our family to join us at the place of posting. It used to cost a lot but we were left with no choice.
To try to shift the blame on PM for such a controversy is in poor light specially when Narendra Modi has visited US during the scared days of Navratras and attended all the functions without taking any food for five days and living merely on Nimbu Paani. This was extreme step that any high level politician has ever attempted, wherein the interests of the country were kept above the religious sentiments. PM could have easily asked to re-schedule his visit on account of scared days as he might have wished to go to Temples or do some pooja.
This is high time for people at the top posts to shed their obsessions for such issues as it will result in more problems in future as India is too diverse and secular to attend to all such issues. Soon the Judge may find some lawyer in Supreme Court taking leave in a critical case on the plea that the lawyer has to go to attend family get together as it is a period of Navratras or Holy Ramzan. I do not know whether every time, another date will be fixed for hearing in such cases, resulting in more and more delays in such cases.To avoid such controversies in future, which are used as political master strokes to question the secular credentials of a Government, there is a need to overhaul the system of holidays, wherein 15th August, 26th January may be declared as national holidays whereas in place of festival holidays, there may be 10 to 12 additional leaves which can be availed by people as per their own beliefs. An overhaul of holiday system in India is overdue.