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Greater statesmanship is to let rights coexist, says Arun Jaitley

Without referring to the Supreme Court order on Sabrimala shrine, Jaitley said instead of going for slogans, there is a need to find a solution where right to equality and dignity coexist with right to religion.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2018 23:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Arun JAitley,Sabarimala,fundamental rights to coexist
Finance minister Arun Jaitley addresses the 1st Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture 2018, organised by the India Foundation, in New Delhi on October 27.(PTI Photo)

The constitution allows freedom to practice religion as also to manage religious institutions, unless the practices are “obnoxious or hostile to human values”, said Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday.

He also said reforms must come from within the society.

Delivering the first Atal Bihari Vajpayee memorial lecture, organised by the India Foundation, Jaitley said conventionally India has seen the society working for social reforms such as child marriage, Sati, bigamy, polygamy etc. “…Therefore, it is easier for the society to work out reforms through their own process rather than mandates from governments or otherwise. In my own view, there is a greater statesmanship by allowing fundamental rights to coexist harmoniously,” he said.

Without referring to the Supreme Court order on Sabrimala shrine, Jaitley said instead of going for slogans, there is a need to find a solution where right to equality and dignity coexist with right to religion.

“Reconciliation is possible when it comes to rights of a citizen irrespective of gender and caste or religion... rights emanating from marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption should all be governed by constitutional rights to equality and dignity. When it comes to religious rituals and management of your religion, unless the practice is obnoxious and hostile to human values, the same can go into the other fundamental right to religion and the right to manage your institution,” he said. He added if you use one set of fundamental rights to extinguish the other, it perhaps will create further challenges.

He also underlined that India will never have a state religion, it will always protect those who are fewer in numbers and minorities; they will have full freedom to practice their religion and so will the others in the majority.

Among the challenges that India faces, he identified corruption, terrorism and the falling standards of public discourse.

He said while terrorism has been eliminated from Punjab, reduced in the north-east, almost eliminated in south India, it remains a challenge in Kashmir, the root cause of which is that Pakistan never reconciles to J&K being part of India. “As part of the global ISIS (spread), we have seen its impact particularly on Kashmir where one saw the movement from Sufism to Wahabism. Past governments closed their eyes, when with the help of foreign money this movement was taking place,” he said. Jaitley also took a potshot at the current Congress leadership and said there had been a degeneration of ideology.

“Would Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi ever have gone to a congregation where ‘Bharat ke tukde tukde’ slogans were raised? Certainly not. But now, there is degeneration of ideology because of personal grievances and ambitions compelled Congress leadership to do so,” he said.

On separation of powers, the minister said attempts were being made to weaken the authority of the elected and creating a power shift in favour of non-accountable institutions.

“Ultimately at the Centre or the state level, it is the elected who are accountable. The non-accountable are not accountable,” the minister said. “The nation, that is India, is higher than any institution or government. Can non-accountability be a mask for corruption? Can it be a ground for investigative adventurism, or can it, as in case of other non-accountable institution, be a ground for inaction? What does the nation do? It is a major challenge,” Jaitley added.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 23:27 IST