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CJI holds conference during Easter weekend, SC judge to skip PM's dinner in protest

Justice Kurian Joseph says Chief Justice calling for a conference on Good Friday is wrong.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2015 17:27 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Kurian Joseph,HL Dattu,Supreme Court

A Supreme Court judge upset over the All India Chief Justices Conference being held on Good Friday has decided not to attend a dinner being hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for top judges on Saturday because it coincides with the Easter weekend.

Justice Kurian Joseph expressed his concerns over the conference being held on Good Friday, a holy day for Christians, in a letter sent to Modi on April 1. The judge wrote to Modi after Chief Justice HL Dattu did not heed his objections to the timing of the three-day event.

Joseph thanked the prime minister for the invitation to the dinner but said: "I regret my inability to attend the event as the conference coincides with the Good Friday ceremonies. Good Friday is a day of great religious significance to us, marking the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

"Thus, it is customary for us to be part of the religious and other ceremonies with the parents, elders and other family members during the holy weekend. Hence I would be in Kerala during those days."

Joseph described the prime minister as the "guardian of Indian secularism" and said the government should respect the holy days of all religions while scheduling official events.

"I know 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 also while scheduling events and benevolently show equal importance and respect to the sacred days of all religions which are also declared as national holidays," the letter said.

Joseph said he has taken the liberty to express some concerns that he felt required the prime minister's consideration. He referred to historical instances and said Jews and Zoroastrians, who came to India after being persecuted abroad, got "respect and bonhomie" from Hindu rulers.

"The whole world jealously looks at the beauty of the secular image, communal harmony and cultural integrity of our great nation. India must in these trying times, safeguard her credentials and be a model that other nations must follow," he said.

Dattu had on March 18 rejected Joseph's request, insisting it was not the first time the conference was held on a public holiday. He cited several precedents to support his decision, which he said was made to avoid disruption of normal working days. He also said institutional interests were paramount.

Christians had protested when the BJP-led government decided last year to observe former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday, which coincides with Christmas, as "Good Governance Day".

Modi will address a joint session of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts on the third and final day of the judges' conference.

Fast-tracking of cases related to offences against women, children, differently-abled persons and senior citizens were among the issues discussed on the first day of the conference that began on Friday.

The closed door meeting, chaired by the chief justice, also focused on augmenting post-retirement benefits for judges of high courts and discussed financial independence for the judiciary.

First Published: Apr 04, 2015 16:05 IST