Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday deeply embarrassed the BJP-led government by asking it to maintain its claim of being a “Secular” state. The court also asked the government to ensure there is no discrimination against any citizen on the ground of faith. These observations were made in a packed central court room, in response to a petition moved by the Christian community, which has alleged discrimination at the hands of the government in allotting land for a cemetery.
According to the community, the government had reserved a nearly 7,500 sq. metre plot for a cemetery in suburban Goregaon; however, the sanction was cancelled without assigning a valid reason. The community also contended that the government had allotted two separate plots adjacent to the one reserved for them, to Hindus (for a crematorium) and Muslims (for a burial ground).
Meanwhile, the Urban Development Department officers, who were present in the court, informed the judges that they had agreed to identify and allot another plot measuring 2,500 sq. metres near Andheri for the Christian community. While the bench agreed that the actual handing over of the new plot might take some time, it directed the authorities to identify the plot and inform the court of the same by Friday.
Having heard the submissions, Chief Justice Manjula Chellur said, “Let us clarify the position, you are not being asked to discharge a formality, it is your obligation and it should be purposeful. We do not appreciate this stand.”
“We want the administration to show to the public that you believe in secularism. Do not try to give a message that some community is more important than another. Just like we, here in courts, treat everyone equally, we expect the same from you,” the CJ added.
“There cannot be a greater equalising factor than death. Do not discriminate even in death,” the Bench observed.