Man and his office

The judiciary is held in high esteem all over the world and particularly in India where the judiciary is the last resort for a citizen against the arbitrary and unconstitutional acts of the State. The judiciary is the creature of the Constitution and individual judges are expected to go by both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. Article 51A(h) of the Constitution says that the citizens have a duty “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.” This Article of the Constitution has to be kept in mind in judging the observations of Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court made on the petition of an NGO on Wednesday, the day of his retirement.
Justice Sharma wanted cow to be declared the national animal and the punishment for cow slaughter be made stiffer by imprisonment for life instead of a present three-year jail term by amending the Rajasthan Bovine Act, 1995. He wanted the Government to give cow the status of a ‘legal entity.’ His other observation was more stunning. He said: “Peacock … is a life-long celibate. He does not indulge in sex with peahen. The peahen gives birth after it gets impregnated with the tears of the peacock.” This is a totally unscientific statement, as anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of biology knows.
As an individual, as a private citizen, Justice Sharma has every right to hold his personal views on any subject – from the status of the cow to the celibacy of the peacock. But as a member of the judiciary – and higher judiciary at that – can he make observations that are not in conformity with the letter and spirit of the Constitution and that fly in the face of known and accepted scientific truth?  The last observation (about peacock) will bewilder even a school-going child. It is inconceivable that an educated person can make such a patently absurd and unscientific statement.
Those familiar with Indian scriptures know that verses in Manusmriti, Shatapath Brahman, Apastamb Grihasutram, Rigveda, Adi Shankaracharya’s commentary on Brihadaranayakopanishad, etc, confirm that beef-eating was practiced in ancient India. One of the synonyms of atithiti or guest in Sanskrit is goghna or cow-killer because if a guest comes to the house, the house-holder has to slaughter a cow and offer its meat to the guest. It is for the historians to find out when in the course of the evolution of the Indian society, holiness came to be attributed to the cow and it came to be revered as a sacred animal. It is rational for anyone to oppose slaughter – of any animal. But it is difficult to understand the rationale of opposing the slaughter of only one animal for its supposed ‘holiness’.

Saturday, 3 June, 2017