Justice GR Swaminathan Accused of Touting BJP
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: NDTV
The Madras High Court on July 28 ruled that, if the golden statue of Sita can be a substitute for her physical presence, then why can’t marriage be registered through virtual appearance?
The bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan stated, “there came a time when Rama was going to perform a huge sacrifice, such as the old kings used to celebrate. But no ceremony in India can be performed by a married man without his wife. So, as a substitute, a golden statue of Sita was made, in order that the ceremony could be accomplished.”
In this case, the writ petition was filed to direct the respondent to solemnise the marriage of the petitioner with the bridegroom through video conference and register the same under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.told NewsClick, “times are changing and it is good that video conference marriages are considered by the law. But, what is the need to quote from mythology to argue for virtual registration of marriage?”
Justice Swaminathan is being accused of underscoring a political bias in his judgements because he draws heavily from Hindu mythologies in court hearings.
Lawyer K Bharathi of the Democratic Advocates’ Association told NewsClick, “he is purposely doing it to promote a certain politics; he is of the attitude ‘I will do what I want, let me see what anyone can do about it”.
Justice GR Swaminathan is said to have been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the past and is criticised for carrying his political leanings into the courtroom. He is repeatedly accused of taking the same stance as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and also of being biased towards the party.
COMPLEMENTING BJP LEADER
In the passport scam case, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on July 27 complimented Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai for bringing the scam to light. Justice Swaminathan said, “he has played the role of a watchdog in a democracy. If it wasn't for him, the matter would not have come to light”.
Lawyer Bharathi wrote to the Chief Justice of the Madras high court, Munishwar Nath Bhandari, calling for the resignation of justice GR Swaminathan for appreciating Annamalai, on the grounds that the judiciary should be independent and cannot support any party or party leader.
Advocate Bharathi told NewsClick, “the person who filed the Public Interest Litigation could have been appreciated. Why was he not complimented? The judge has the intention to praise the BJP president and foreground the party.”
He added, “this ruling was given a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Chennai. We doubt that it was done with the intention to grab his attention by praising the state president of the BJP, popularising the party in Tamil Nadu and gaining a reputation for himself”.
He further said, “the judge gave a clean chit to Devasirvatham, who Annamalai charged was behind the scam. Thereby, Annamalai’s claim itself is proved wrong, but is appreciated”.
“The passport scam issue was raked up around three years ago, it was not Annamalai who exposed it,” he added.
IN LINE WITH BJP’s AGENDA
While hearing a plea in February 2022 seeking to quash a First Information Report (FIR) against a devotee who alleged mismanagement in Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Trichy, Justice GR Swaminathan questioned whether temples should continue to be under the thumb of the government.
"Should not the government profess to be a secular treat all religious institutions on par? Are not knowledgeable and committed activists like Shri T.R. Ramesh justified in arguing that the government should exercise the same degree and level of control over temples as are exercised over churches and mosques?" observed the judge.
The agenda of 'freeing' temples from government control is an election promise of the BJP for the Tamil Nadu Assembly election 2021. BJP national secretary H Raja has been spearheading the Hindu Temple Reclaim Movement which demands the Tamil Nadu government take steps to hand over Hindu temples to believers for better administration.
In May 2022, Justice Swaminathan held a hearing via Whatsapp, the first of its kind under the Madras high court. He held that the Inspector attached to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Department does not have the jurisdiction to issue an order directing the temple Thakkar (Fit person) and the hereditary trustee to stop the car festival.
It is unclear whether this case amounted to an emergency hearing. But the stance taken by Justice vouched for the distancing of the State from temples and related activities, similar to the BJP’s stance.
In another case, Justice Swaminathan observed that the ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’, an invocation to mother Tamil, is a prayer song and not an anthem, thereby there is no statutory or executive order requiring attendees to stand if it is sung. This was prior to the state Government declaring the song as the State anthem of Tamil Nadu.
The BJP is of the view that the song is not merely an invocation to the Tamil language, but to Mother Tamil, a Goddess similar to Bharat Mata or Mother India. The BJP demands that the state government use the full Tamil Thai Vazthu-which includes the lines on belief in god, not just the abridged version.
Notably, in a different case, Justice Swaminathan observed that Priest George Ponniah’s malicious remarks on Bharat Mata amounted to outraging religious feelings promoting enmity. The judge does not uphold Bharat Mata and Mother Tamil as secular figures but as an embodiment of religion.
Three cases filed against a right-wing YouTuber Maridhas were heard by Justice GR Swaminathan, the judge ruled in favour of quashing all three.
The case against Maridhas was for his tweet saying that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-ruled Tamil Nadu will soon turn into another Kashmir. The other is for Corona Jihad, linking the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi for the spread of COVID-19. Another for uploading a video pertaining to the anti-CAA protests.
In the last case, Justice Swaminathan cited freedom of speech and expression while quashing the FIR. The judge had also noted that Maridhas had 'probably realised his mistake' and had deleted the tweet.
Whereas, the Justice held that certain remarks made by Priest George Ponniah on Bharat Mata at a meeting in Arumanai in Kanniyakumari district prima facie amounted to deliberate/malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings promoting enmity.
Recently YouTuber Savukku Shankar posted a Tweet about the judge implying that he met someone at the Azhagar temple in Madurai in connection with the case against Maridhas.
Lawyer Bharathi told NewsClick, “in certain minor cases he vouches for freedom of speech and expression. But, his intentions and political leanings seem to come through. He is in a constitutional post and should do justice to it”.
Lawyer Marx told NewsClick, “he is from an RSS background, and his verdicts seem to reflect political leanings and that should not be the case.”
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