Rajasthan High Court judgment on cow is bound to raise many questions | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Rajasthan High Court judgment on cow is bound to raise many questions

Declaring a new national animal is the executive’s prerogative, not of the judiciary. The obscurantist observations in the judgment could provide an opportunity to critics to question the quality of judges and the appointment system

editorials Updated: Jun 01, 2017 23:04 IST
Justice Sharma gave a peculiar reason for his order – the supposed celibacy of peacocks. He said his suggestion was only because “it was a voice from my soul.”
Justice Sharma gave a peculiar reason for his order – the supposed celibacy of peacocks. He said his suggestion was only because “it was a voice from my soul.” (PTI Photo)

The Rajasthan High Court’s verdict directing the Centre to christen the cow as India’s national animal is bound to raise several questions, particularly the tendency of some judges to get drawn into political controversies. The 193-page verdict in Hindi urges the cow be given the status of a legal person and directs the State and its advocate general to be “persons in loco parentis” for the animal’s preservation. The Latin phrase is a legal doctrine under which an individual assumes parental rights, duties and obligations without going through the formalities of legal adoption. The judge has also recommended enhancement of punishment for cow slaughter from the present seven years to life imprisonment.

The judgment comes at a time when many states are protesting the Centre’s decision to ban the slaughter of all cattle – cows and buffaloes – bought in agricultural markets. It is likely to embolden vigilante groups who, in the name of cow protection, have carried out violent attacks on minorities suspected of cow slaughtering.

Also, the obscurantist observations in the judgment could provide an opportunity to critics to question the quality of judges and the appointment system. The verdict comes close to the heels of controversy involving sitting Calcutta High Court judge, Justice CS Karnan, who is facing arrest orders for his intemperate language used against judges of the Supreme Court and his colleagues.

Personal choices of judges ought not to have any role to play in their verdicts. The basic norm that judges should speak through their judgments and not outside has been violated here. This principle is reaffirmed through Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma’s interviews, which clearly reflects that his judgment is tainted with personal bias. This should be the sole reason to review his directive. In an interview to a news channel, Justice Sharma gave a peculiar reason for his order – the supposed celibacy of peacocks. He said his suggestion was only because “it was a voice from my soul.”

This was a case where the judge should have restrained himself from enlarging the scope of the petition before him and going into issues that could have had political overtones. Whether an animal should be declared national or not is the executive’s prerogative. Justice Sharma should have restricted himself to the allegations made in the petition filed by the NGO Jago Janta Society seeking directions to save cows kept in Jaipur’s Hingonia gaushala and other cow sheds, given the sensitivity attached to the issue.

This judgment could harm the image of our judiciary, which should not be seen as endorsing a religion since it is meant to protect every citizen’s fundamental rights.