Posted by Manvendra Singh Jadon
July 26, 2017

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Ban and India has been a debate too long, in fact it is a ‘conundrum. The eulogy stems from the fact that for an extended period of time, India’s system of governance has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. ‘Cow’ is just a progeny of this hotchpotch, more so a medium of questioning the democratic establishment which is effectuated better by orientation these days rather than reasonability. Scratching our heads over the proposition, it becomes crystal clear even for a layman that the whole paradigm of this wrangling revolves around three terms of essence, ‘religion’, ‘law’ and ‘rights’. There are two ends to the debate involving these terms in question, “What are the rights of a person under the eyes of laws” and “Whether religious typology could outplay the principles of these gamut of laws existing in India”.

At the onset of India’s transition from emancipation to autonomy, citizens were guaranteed some rights through a parchment of inviolability, known as Constitution. This document unlike any other before culminated in determining the extent of one’s discourse in the social, economic and political circles. Even though it was comprehensive, it didn’t took time before aspersions were raised on its sanctity. It was rightly so, because a part of it expresses the responsibility of preserving the ‘milch cattle’ which is at the forefront of this deliberation and on the contrary one accepts the religious inclinations and choice of employment as a matter of right. This dichotomy does not wind-up here, it touches upon the whole edifice of the legal system prevailing in India just as our Courts have found themselves in shallow waters for the past 65 odd years of the existence of Indian Constitution. Similar to the helplessness of the Courts in issues involving religion, evident from the history of Ram Mandir debacle, our legislature also seems to be a damp squib. Apart from enacting plethora of laws and putting up wayward bans under the garb of Constitution, not much has been achieved by the legislature. As in for arguendo among some intra-mural circles, the whole theme of this conundrum has been stretched to economics of milk, medical/health effects of beef and religious bearings on epics and sacred texts. On the contrary for a commoner, the question does not involve Articles in the Constitution, Precedents of the Courts or the Economic Impact, what it actually does involve is the ‘balance of convenience’ between sustenance through employment and respect to the beliefs, traditions of a particular religious community.  This tete-a-tete would not resolve either by taking sides, or staking claims through political ideologies but would certainly shape well if religion is not subjected to the whims and fancies of certain leaders in the parliament. In the present context, our laws does forbid cow slaughter and that’s the hard truth. We have a Right to Religion and Right to Employment and even a penumbral Right to Food but all of these are concomitant rights and not absolutely exercisable. As subjects to the constitution, the Courts cannot unilaterally decide a particular hitch, instead it needs to weigh in the odds and simultaneously confined itself to the adjudication without extrapolating out of the power distribution structure.

It is quite surprising to note that this debate over political hierarchy and religious supremacy will probably last an eternity and the reason is quite evident. No individual is ready to come out of that shell built around the politics of religion and this is pulling down any efforts to break the status quo. There is no iota of doubt that law is indeed supreme and that none of the personal beliefs can trump the decisive actions of courts and legislature. But law should not be interpreted in a narrow sense, instead it must essentially be ‘salus populi suprema lex esto’, meaning the welfare of the people should be supreme law. The beautiful words of J. S.R. Pandian tries to mediate over this rhetorical debate by denoting that,

“The welfare of the people is the supreme law” adequately enunciates the idea of law. This can be achieved only when justice is administered lawfully, judicially, without fear or favour and without being hampered and thwarted, and this cannot be effective unless respect for it is fostered and maintained.

(Pritam Pal vs High Court Of Madhya Pradesh)

In light of such complexities, there is no master key solution. The best possible alternative is to ward off the internal clashes among the communities over religious supersession and subsequently taking ground level initiatives to provide modern education to the masses about the changing landscapes of the society.  And we as citizens can always play our due part in this tussle, by being innovative rather than critical in dealing with such delicate issues.

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