This article is written by Daisy Jain, pursuing B.COM.LLB (Hons) from the Institute of Law, Nirma University. This is an exhaustive article that takes an overview of 12 important cases by former CJ of Allahabad HC, Justice Govind Mathur.
Judiciary plays a very vital role in ensuring justice in society. When it comes to applying laws to particular cases, one of the most important roles of the judiciary is to decipher (help understand or make clear) the law. Every law requires a comprehensive understanding before it can be applied to a particular situation. The judges are responsible for carrying out this role. When it comes to the law, it means what the judges interpret or derive its meaning. Justice Govind Mathur, the former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, is known for pronouncing public-centric judgments since his past tenure, from quashing many illegal detentions to the removal of posters attacking the state authorities during the CAA (Citizenship amendment act, 2019) protests.
Justice Govind Mathur : an enlightening detail
Hon’ble Justice Mr. Govind Mathur is an Indian judge who was born on 14th April 1959. He retired as the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court on 13th April 2021.
- He worked as a lawyer in the Rajasthan High Court in Jodhpur, where he specialized in constitutional, service, and labour law.
- In addition, he started working as a Standing Counsel for the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, the Indian Oil Corporation, and the Water and Power Consultancy Services in New Delhi, among other organizations.
- His other professional experience includes serving as a Standing Counsel for the National Teachers Education Council, the Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, the Thar Anchalik Gramin Bank, the Central Bank of India, the Punjab National Bank, and Bhilwara Central Co-operative Bank.
- On 2nd September 2004, he was commissioned as an additional judge of the Rajasthan High Court.
- On the 29th of May 2006, he was moved to the position of permanent judge.
- In the following years, he was transferred to the Allahabad High Court, where he took his oath on November 21, 2017.
- His appointment as acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court took effect on October 24, 2018 and he was the senior-most Justice in the Court at the time.
- Earlier on 10th November 2018, he was appointed as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, and on November 14, 2018, he took his oath as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court.
It was during Justice Mathur’s tenure as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court of Uttar Pradesh that the state government came under fire for its heavy-handed legislation and rules. When the situation called for it, Justice Mathur did not hold back in calling out the state’s officials, writing in one of his decisions: “the courts are assumed to convey justice, and no court can completely close its eyes if a social inhumane is occurring just before it.” A thorough examination of the database will reveal that Justice Mathur took a pro-free speech, pro-privacy and pro-human rights stance when making decisions in cases and that he had a clear understanding of the Court’s responsibility as a defender of citizens’ fundamental human rights. He took on a number of cases that dealt with these problems on his own initiative.
12 important cases
A brief description of some significant cases heard by Chief Justice Govind Mathur during his time in office as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court is provided below.
Nuzhat Perween v. State of Uttar Pradesh
The case of Nuzhat Perween v. State of Uttar Pradesh was decided on 1st September 2020 by the former Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh. Massive protests erupted across the country in response to the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in 2019. A rally of student protesters gathered at Aligarh Muslim University, on the 12th of December, 2019, and Dr Kafeel and Dr Yogendra Yadav addressed the students on that day. Dr Kafeel Khan delivered a speech to approximately 600 college students gathered at the Bab-e-Syed gate of Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, at approximately 18.30 hours. In his speech, he attempted to arouse the religious beliefs of the Muslim students in attendance, as well as to augment hostility, animosity, and discord between the two communities. Dr Kafeel Khan’s speech had a negative impact on the accord between communities, and it led to public disorder.
At Aligarh’s Police Station Civil Lines, a Sub-Inspector of Police filed a complaint against the detenu under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which was later dismissed. The offences under Sections 109, 153B, and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code were later introduced and the detenu was apprehended on the 29th of January, 2020, while the inquiry was still ongoing. As part of the proceedings, Dr Kafeel applied for bail with the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Aligarh on the 10th of February, 2020, and was released on bail the following day. On February 13th, 2020, the Chief Justice ordered Dr Kafeel’s exoneration from prison after the jail officials failed to comply with the Court’s directive via specific messenger. On the following day that is 13th February 2020, the Inspector in charge of Police Station Civil Line, Aligarh, together with the Circle Officer of Aligarh and the Superintendent of Police of Aligarh noted to the Deputy Inspector General of Police/Senior Superintendent of Police, Aligarh, to consider the detention of Dr Kafeel Khan by Aligarh District Magistrate, in compliance with the terms and conditions of subsection (2) of Section 3 of the National security Act, 1980.
The order was issued after the District Magistrate of Aligarh instituted the authority granted to him by the National Security Act, 1980. The detention order was ratified by the state government on the 24th of February, 2020, according to the Court records. Following the issuance of an order on the 6th of May, 2020 by the State Government citing authority under sub-Section (1) Section 12 of the National Security Act of 1980, the duration of detention was stretched for a period of six months from the date of detention that is the 13th of February, 2020. The duration of detention was then also extended for another three months from the date the period of six months was originally extended.
The detenu filed four sets of representations after obtaining the order of detention, each acknowledged to a different authority: the State Advisory Board, the Aligarh District Magistrate, the Central government, and the State government. All of the representations were dismissed, and the detention order was accepted. Nuzhat Parween, the mother of Dr Kafeel, filed this petition in which she questioned the legality of the detention order.
Whether the detention order issued for Dr Kafeel Khan by the Court is valid or is it illegal?
While analyzing Dr Kafeel’s original speech, the Court noted that while the person speaking was undoubtedly dissenting from the government policies and while doing so, he provided certain illustrations, none of them were indicative of the circumstances that would necessitate detention. A careful study of the speech reveals no prima facie evidence of an attempt to incite enmity or hostility. Furthermore, the District Magistrate only read and mentioned a few sentences from the speech, completely disregarding the speech’s real intentions.
The Court noted that no hearings for Dr Kafeel’s detention were instituted for approximately two months following the day he delivered his speech to the students at the university. A requisition for an order of detention was made just after the signing of the release order on the 12th of February, 2020 by the Deputy Inspector General/Senior Superintendent of Police, Aligarh, to the District Magistrate, Aligarh, who granted the requirement. The order of preventive detention could have been authorized to avert an onset but not as a punishment or simply as a result of the happenings that had occurred two months prior to the order of preventive detention. Dr Kafeel has already been charged with two different offences in connection with those happenings, according to the information available to the public.
Furthermore, the Court relied on the decisions in Gora vs State of West Bengal (1975), T.A. vs State of West Bengal (1988), Abdul Rahman Vs. State of Kerala & Ors. (1989), and Rajinder Arora Vs. Union of India & Ors. (2006), the Supreme Court observed that there was a total lack of resources on record to link the speech rendered by Dr Kafeel on 12th December 2019, and the hostile incidents of 13th December 2019 and 15th December 2019, which were linked to the grounds of detention and preventive detention.
The Court debated the lawfulness of the detention on the grounds that the detenu was not given an effective opportunity to be represented as soon as possible. The material provided in prison was a compact disk containing a recording of the speech delivered, but no device for playing the compact disk was provided to the detenue. In the utter lack of such a device, the provision of a compact disk is absolutely non-consequential, and as a result, the provision of a compact disk violates clause (5) of Article 22 of the Indian Constitution. Finally, the record revealed that only radiograms pertaining to the State Government’s plan to extend the detainee’s detention period were provided to the detainee. Despite the fact that the radiograms stated that the exact order would be sent via speed post, nothing else was given to the detenu other than the radiograms.
In the context of these issues, the High Court reached the conclusion that neither the detention of Dr Kafeel Khan under the National Security Act, 1980, nor the extension of his detention are legal under the circumstances. Khan’s detention was deemed “arbitrary” and “illegal” by Justice Mathur, who overturned the detention decision. Justice Mathur even went so far as to say that Khan’s speech was in fact a clarion call for nationwide dignity and harmony, rather than the opposite and that the two were not mutually exclusive.
“A detailed analysis of the speech reveals no evidence of an attempt to incite hostility or violent acts. Aligarh’s peace and equanimity are also not jeopardized in any way by this development. As part of the address, it gives a call for nationwide dignity and harmony among citizens. In addition, any form of violence is condemned in the speech. Although it seems to appear that the district magistrate did a narrow interpretation and acknowledgement of only a few sayings from the speech while completely neglecting the speech’s real intentions,” the Court made the observation.
Name and Shame posters an “unwarranted interference in privacy”
This petition was registered by the Court as In-Re banners placed on the roadside in the city of Lucknow. In Lucknow, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s most populous states, the Police Administration and the District Administration displayed banners with private information about certain people. The banners portrayed the addresses, names, and photographs of 50 people who had been alleged of the destruction of property during an uprising against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which took place in December of 2019. These people were already being pursued in court for allegations of compensatory relief for the destruction of property and property loss to both public and private property that occurred during the protest, which was already underway. On 6th March and 7th March 2020, a large amount of publicity was given to the setup of these banners in newspapers, magazines, and online media. Following complaints from individuals who had their privacy violated by the showcase of such banners, Hon’ble Justice Govind Mathur, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad exercised suo-motu cognizance (autonomous action) over the issue and ordered the registration and enumerating of an urgent writ petition for the public interest. The High Court sought a reply from the District Magistrate as well as the Commissioner of Police of Lucknow, asking them to elucidate the existing laws on the grounds of which the banners were installed on the roadside, inducing traffic congestion in congested places and infringing on the right to privacy.
The Respondent State Executive acknowledged that any written law or regulation decisions were not authorized or required. On the other hand, the Respondent objected to the writ petition on several key issues. The Respondent argued that the Court could not bring up its public interest authority because it was only readily accessible to those who were underprivileged. In this particular instance, the individuals whose information was released on the banners were able to aggravate for their own cause. The Respondent focused on the case of State of Uttaranchal v. Balwant Singh Chaufal and Ors. (2010), to assist this viewpoint. When the banners were assembled in Lucknow, there was a resulting legal remedy. As a result, the bench of the High Court in Allahabad was unable to exercise its jurisdiction. A technical argument was brought up on the basis that, in the nature of public interest litigation (PIL), cognizance of problems could only be obtained by a division bench of the Court and not by a single judge, as was the situation in the current instance. To conclude, the respondent asserted, in essence, that the state regulation was justified, having been taken with the goal of discouraging “mischief mongers” from inflicting harm to public and private property.
Placing such private details on banners has been interpreted as an infringement of the fundamental right to life because it infringes on the privacy of the alleged perpetrator, and the Lucknow Administration has been required to describe why they have chosen to take this action and under what jurisdiction they did so. Thus, the District Magistrate and the Police Commissioner appeared before the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad through the Advocate General of the Uttar Pradesh Government. While acknowledging that the Lucknow Administration was to blame, the Advocate General refused to dismiss the petition and rather challenged the petition.
In this case, the following issues were brought up by the Court:
- If the rights of disadvantaged people are not implicated in this case, does the High Court have the authority to suo-motu file a Public Interest Litigation in this case?
- Does the Allahabad High Court have territorial jurisdiction?
- Do the state’s actions result in an unjustified intrusion into an individual’s privacy and an infringement of their fundamental rights?
It was held that banners with private details and personal information of people were placed on the roadside without legal jurisdiction in the current case, and the Police Commissioner and the District Magistrate of Lucknow were ordered to take away the banners “immediately” from the roadside.
- The Court has the authority to suo-motu register a PIL, despite the fact that the intervention of the state does not impact the rights of disadvantaged people, it impedes the constitutional framework of the country by violating the fundamental right to life and personal liberty of the people.
- The Court can exercise its territorial jurisdiction concerning the issue as in this case, there is no personal injury towards any protesters, rather there is an infringement of constitutional provisions and tyrannic working of the executive officials.
- The state’s action of printing protestors’ private information on banners amounts to an unwelcome intrusion into their privacy, which is a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution because the right to privacy is a component of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
Mohd. Aman Khan v. Union of India
Justice Govind Mathur headed the bench in the case of Mohd. Aman Khan v. Union of India (2019). Aligarh Muslim University students began protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act on 10th December 2019 and were met with verbal aggression, violence, and retaliation from the police on 15th December when they began to demonstrate against the police brutality at JMI. This writ petition was recommended to have any specific instructions, such as the establishment of a ‘Court Regulated and Monitored Committee’ to conduct a judicial investigation into the violent attacks and irrational detainment of students by the Para Military Forces and the State Police at Aligarh Muslim University from December 12th to December 15th, 2019. According to the allegations referenced in the writ petition, on the 15th of December, 2019, the Paramilitary Force and the State Police charged lathi along with firing pellets, tear gas, and rubber bullets for no just and legitimate purpose. They also raided Guest Houses 2 and 3, where the students had taken refuge. In the following two hours, the police decided to break into the hostels. The police were alerted after students assured them that the protestors had scattered and gestured white handkerchiefs at them, but they did not respond. The entire event was captured on video by the C.C.T.V. An arrest has been made in connection with interfering with and clearing out of proof from the incident that occurred on the premises of Aligarh Muslim University.
After considering the above-stated facts, the Hon’ble High Court held that the Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 has the authority to investigate suo-motu or on a writ petition pertaining to students for violations of human rights or mitigation thereof, or for negligence in the avoidance of such violations by a government worker, as provided by the Act. Reported violations of human rights, as well as accused negligence in the prevention of such violations, have been brought to light. The recitation of the facts unquestionably necessitates an investigation. Following a review of the NHRC’s powers, the Court determined that the Commission should investigate the actual scenario. The Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission can also conduct an investigation into this matter. However, regarding this matter, the National Human Rights Commission is already conducting an investigation into similar accusations arising from a complaint filed by the faculty members and the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University. The Bench believes it is appropriate for the NHRC to conduct an investigation into the current situation as well. The Commission has been asked to finish the interrogation within one month and to report its outcomes and suggestions if any to this Hon’ble Court, as soon as possible after the final result of the investigation/inquiry.
According to the Court, the District Magistrate of Aligarh is directed to ensure that all necessary medical assistance is provided to the students who were injured during the lathi charge that took place on December 14 and 15, 2019. Later, the National Human Rights Commission filed a detailed report with the Court, which was later accepted. As a result of the said report, Chief Justice Mathur ordered that “appropriate action” be taken against the delinquent police officers who were found to have engaged in “unnecessarily caning” students of AMU and causing damage to vehicles during student protests against the Central Administrative Agency (CAA).
Bablu Shah v. State of Uttar Pradesh
In the case of Bablu Shah v. State of Uttar Pradesh, in 2011, the Station House Officer of Moradabad sought permission from the Competent Authority to retain the Petitioner under surveillance due to accused illegal activities. Following that, the approval for surveillance was granted in accordance with the law. In the case, the Petitioner claimed that his history sheet was accessed as a result of some cases filed in the year 2011, all of which were dismissed, and that the petitioner is no longer associated with any illegal activity that would require his continued surveillance. When it comes to this particular case, the relevant Station House Officer has been providing suggestions year after year to keep surveillance of the petitioner by keeping a history sheet. Because of this, the respondent asserted that simply because the petitioner was acquitted on one count, it cannot be concluded that he is no longer engaged in illegal activity on the other.
The State authorities were reprimanded by a bench chaired over by Justice Mathur for restraining a citizen under surveillance. According to the Court, such surveillance constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of movement and an invasion of privacy. The petitioner’s history sheet should be terminated because, in our interpretation, there is no reason to keep him under surveillance by keeping it up to date. Consequently, the writ petition has been granted in its entirety. As directed by the Court as per Chapter XX of the Uttar Pradesh Police Regulations, the respondents are to discontinue all surveillance of the petitioner, the Court stated.
Re Inhuman Condition At Quarantine Centres And For Providing Better Treatment To Corona Positive
The petitioner stated in the Public Interest Litigation, “as the potential danger of a pandemic certainly exists and the national health system is unable to meet the needs of the population on a demand-to-demand basis, people have been taking it upon themselves to put a halt to their daily tasks.” The streets and main roads have become secluded, and economic activity in the state of Uttar Pradesh’s large cities has almost come to a complete halt, according to reports. The state’s population is completely under the control of a Coronavirus known as COVID19, and as a result, people are becoming diseased in large numbers each day, establishing a complete spread of infection for every subsequent day. In the hunt for a bed for survival, people are queuing outside each hospital, but only some very fortunate ones are getting an opportunity, and even non-COVID patients and those that have become negative and are experiencing severe respiratory issues as a result of COVID intervention in the lungs are not receiving beds. As a result, the healthcare infrastructure has reached its capacity.
Government hospitals, as well as well-known private hospitals, are unable to meet the needs of the general public in the contemporary age. Aside from that, doctors, medical and paramedical staff, and other healthcare professionals are all fatigued to the point of collapse. Even private hospitals, which have stepped forth to offer their current facilities in order to assist the government during this period of emergencies, are woefully understaffed and underequipped. There have been reports that healthcare professionals at these hospitals are cautious to treat patients who have been infected with COVID. Furthermore, private hospitals are lacking in life-saving drugs such as Remdesivir, and they are in desperate need of oxygen. What’s worse, according to the information we’ve received, certain individuals in private hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry are making money off of this situation. In addition, patients are sometimes given bogus injections to make them feel better.
The Allahabad High Court, sitting under the lordship of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma, observed that, despite the fact that the state had authorized directives to curb the menace posed by COVID-19, the general public was not adhering with the directives. The Court ordered that the District Magistrates of each district in Uttar Pradesh be responsible for ensuring that the government’s directives are followed strictly and indisputably in their districts. The District Administration, including the Police Department, has also been informed to guarantee that there is complete masking and that there is no overcrowding in any area. The Panchayat Raj Elections must follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines in order to be valid. In fact, the state government has been required to investigate the “adequacy of vaccination for one and all,” which includes not only citizens over the age of 45, but also students who will be appearing in the Uttar Pradesh intermediate and high school examinations.
Afterward, in the same case, the Court made mention of the migrant workers who were returning to Uttar Pradesh after the countrywide lockdown was declared and took action on their behalf. All migrants must be appropriately quarantined for a minimum of 15 days in facilities that are perfectly sanitized and equipped with adequate food and medical infrastructure, according to the State government’s directive. As part of that process, a bench led by Chief Justice Mathur issued directions in a PIL wanting the regulation of the fundamental rights of migrant workers who had been moving across Uttar Pradesh to reach their homes.
Consider door-to-door vaccination
During the hearing of the petition “re: inhuman conditions at quarantine centres and for providing better treatment to corona positives,” a bench consisting of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma demonstrated their worries over the increase in COVID positive cases and advised the State government to initiate vaccination to all citizens instead of limiting it to those over the age of 45 years. “We believe it is suitable to request that the State Government investigate the feasibility of vaccination for all citizens, rather than just those over the age of 45. The State government should investigate the feasibility of immunizing students who will be taking part in the Uttar Pradesh Intermediate and High School examinations in the future. An organized vaccination program that goes door to door should be established. According to the order, the state government will also evaluate the importance of instituting a night curfew in order to keep late-night and large social events under control.
War at the Bar : the Tribunal controversy
Bar associations across Uttar Pradesh have called for a boycott of courts in response to challenges concerning the setting up of varied tribunals in the state earlier this year. There was a disagreement over the institution of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal and the Education Services Tribunal in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Justice Govind Mathur took suo-motu cognizance of the Education Tribunal dispute and ordered the government of Uttar Pradesh to execute the procedure of enforcing the Uttar Pradesh Education Services Tribunal Bill, 2021. The Education Tribunal, on the other hand, can only be formed with the permission of the High Court, as was explicitly stated earlier. The institution of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Appellate Tribunal in Uttar Pradesh was also delayed by Justice Govind Mathur in a similar manner to the previous decision. It is important to focus that, following the issuance of these orders, the Allahabad and Awadh Bar Associations termed off their strikes and restarted Court proceedings.
Sunday hearing to hear the case on missing soldier
During Gandhi Jayanti, which is a national holiday in India, a division bench of the Allahabad High Court convened to hear a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of an Indian Army soldier who has been missing for more than 14 months. After receiving a letter from the father of Sepoy Rajat Singh, the missing soldier, Chief Justice Govind Mathur convened a bench with Justice Vivek Varma to look into the issue. This letter was regarded as a petition for habeas corpus. As stated in the letter, while representing as a Sepoy with the 28th Punjab Regiment in Pithoragarh, Rajat was “unlawfully deputed” to Colonel (Retd.) A K Dwivedi in Bareilly, and has been missing since the 28th of July, 2018, when he was last seen at the Officers Mess in Bareilly’s Headquarters (UB Area). As written in the letter by the soldier’s father, Updesh Singh, no satisfactory actions were carried out to find Rajat. On the 30th of July, 2018, a police report was filed at the Bareilly Cantonment police station.
During the course of the Court proceeding, additional government advocate Syed Ali Mortaza, who was addressing the state of Uttar Pradesh, told the court that the investigating officer (IO) in the case had asked that one Lance Naik Balwant Singh be directed to report to the police station for requisite questioning and investigation by the commanding officer of Bareilly military police. However, advocate Mortaza informed the Court that the IO had not received a reply from the government. Then the Court ordered the military police command officer in charge of the Bareilly Cantonment police station to deliver it with all of the information it required about Rajat Singh, which he promptly did. In the Court order, it said, “Taking into account the facts asserted in the petition as well as the orders issued by the learned Additional Government Advocate, we presume it adequate to call upon the Command Officer, Military Police Station Cantt, Bareilly to give all required information with respect to missing person Rajat Singh.”
Human rights of prisoners
Justice Govind Mathur took suo-motu cognizance in Re: Reference to the condition of District Jail, Basti. Sri Vinay Kumar Jaiswal, Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Basti, had filed a report to the Hon’ble Administrative District Judge, Basti, regarding his inspection and investigation of the District Jail (Basti). The report was transferred to the Chief Justice for further consideration, and the Chief Justice, in the course of his governmental functions, determined that it was adequate to give the report to the bench to hear it as public interest litigation.
The jail’s miserable condition is described in depth in the detailed report. “It seems that in addition to overcrowding of prisoners beyond its capacity, a number of other defects take place at the District Jail of Basti.” According to the informative report by the Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Basti has noted an inadequacy of maintaining, sanitation and hygiene, as well as a lack of adequate medical facilities, infrastructural problems, and concerns relating to vocational training.” The report also indicated that the prisoners’ parole applications, which are filed to the authorities, take a long time to be processed. In addition to the lack of a library facility at the prison, there is no resource given access for the implementation of literacy, training, and education programs. The vast majority of the prison’s C.C.T.V. cameras are also not in a condition of functioning. According to the allegations presented in this report, the prisoners who have contracted coronavirus infection are housed in a different area, but no coronavirus safety procedure is followed in this facility.
According to the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court, “the report highlighted indifference on the part of the authorities involved in terms of providing satisfactory prisons, which are required to accommodate both sentenced and under-trial prisoners.” “It is sufficient to assert that the principle of deterrent punishment is giving way to reformative theory in internationally recognized criminal jurisprudence. Our country has acknowledged a combined method, which includes deterrent punishment as well as the reformation of offenders in prisons that are now recognized as reformatories,” the Bench stated. Court went on to say, “it is also well established that prisoners have human rights as well, and whatever specifications are noted in the report are nothing more than essential components for ensuring the application of the rights aforementioned.”
The police assault on Etah Advocate
Justice Govind Mathur took suo-moto cognizance in Re suo-moto cognizance of the police atrocities over an advocate. Sri Rajendra Sharma, a practising lawyer in the Uttar Pradesh district, Etah, was assaulted and thrashed by the police officers, and his family members were bullied and mistreated as a result of the incident. The police also broke the door of the aggrieved lawyer’s home, and he was also thrown out of his home while he was in an attire of lawyer’s uniform, where he was humiliated and thrashed cruelly by police officers. The entire incident which occurred on December 21, 2020, was recorded in the form of a video, which was released online and drew a great deal of criticism from advocates and bar associations all over the country.
An official press release issued by the Bar Council of India on December 26, 2020, criticized the incident, describing it as “open gundagardi of the Uttar Pradesh police officers”, and called on the Chief Justice of India along with the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to quickly take some action against the responsible police officers. Furthermore, according to the Press Release of the Bar Council of India, the footage revealed a “hidden agenda” on the part of the police officers and that if such occurrences continue to be untouched, the “Bar will have no other option but to come on streets.”
Additionally, the Supreme Court Bar Association issued a statement criticizing the alleged assault and describing it as “horrendous and intolerable,” and urging “all relevant government officials to take severe disciplinary action against all responsible for their horrific behaviour, which condemns and infringes the directive of the Rule of Law.” Besides that, the General Secretary of the High Court Bar Association, Allahabad, Mr. Prabha Shankar Mishra wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court seeking that he takes “suo-motu cognizance of the said mishap and carry necessary orders to retain the law and order condition in the state.”
The issue has been taken up by the Allahabad High Court on a suo-motu cognizance, and a bench consisting of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh has requested a comprehensive report on the issue from the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Etah, in response to the matter. The Court has ordered the Chief Justice of the Middle District of Etah to handle the case by gathering “all true details, such as sound recordings and digital files, and submitting them to this Hon’ble Court” Aside from that, it has also advised the District Magistrate of Etah and the Senior Superintendent of Police to comply with and present all true details and files as requested by the District Court.
Government can interfere if maladministration is visible in Minority Institutions
A writ petition, Diocese of Varanasi Education Society and 9 others v. State of U.P. was filed in the Allahabad High Court. The “U.P. Self-Financed Independent Schools (Fee Regulation Act, 2018” was enforced by the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature to monitor and control fees in self-financed autonomous schools in the state of Uttar Pradesh, as well as any matters associated with thereto. The aforementioned act applies to both minority educational institutions and self-financing autonomous schools.
The petitioner, the Diocese of Varanasi Education Society, a minority institution, is challenging the constitutional validity of the act on the grounds that, under Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India, no intervention in the administering of minority institutions can be made by the government authorities, either by the statute or otherwise. It is asserted that minority institutions have the authority to establish their own procedures for admitting students, setting up a significant fee structure, forming a regulatory body, appointing staff, and taking action when a staff member fails to perform his or her responsibilities. According to the learned counsel occurring on behalf of the petitioner, the act violates a significant constitutional right of minority institutions.
According to the Court, the right granted to minorities under Article 30 is designed specifically to guarantee equality with the majority and is not aimed to put minorities in a more favourable stance in comparison to the majority. In the case of minorities, there is no opposite unequal treatment. Laws concerning social welfare, national interest, public order and morality, national security and public wellbeing and hygiene taxation, and other matters relevant to all will be applied fairly to minority institutions as they are to all other institutions. The right to build and supervise educational institutions is not uncompromisingly protected by law. The right to maladminister is also not included in this definition. Educational regulations, as well as the maintenance of academic professionalism, can be ensured through restrictive frameworks. In order to guarantee that the administration is effective in order to fulfill the educational requirements of the institution, checks and balances can be implemented in the administrative process.
As a result, the Court determined that while Article 30 safeguards minority institutions from intrusion by the government in their establishment and management, it does not preclude the state from ensuring good administration by putting inspections on the circumstances that could lead to “maladministration.” Indulging in fraudulent activities, such as the commercialization of education, is prohibited by the right of minorities to administer educational institutions. If the state meets the requirements of rationality and the test that the legislation applied has a regulative educational character and is suitable to make minority educational institutions more efficient in providing education to minorities, then such legislation is not at all affected by the right shielded by Article 30 of the Indian Constitution. For lack of a better phrase, such a provision is in pursuance of the right granted to such institutions to obtain a comprehensive and brighter educational status.
Religious conversion law
Justice Govind Mathur was also a part of a bench in the case of Ajit Singh Yadav v. State of Uttar Pradesh, in which he issued a notice in the two PILs to the state government challenging Uttar Pradesh prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. Two Public Interest Litigations (PIL) have been filed in the Allahabad High Court against the contentious ordinance law passed by the Uttar Pradesh government in November 2020, which prohibits religious conversions in the name of ‘love jihad’. One of the two writ petitions has been filed by an individual named Ajit Singh Yadav, who has been represented by attorneys KK Roy and Ramesh Kumar. The Bench, on the other hand, denied any type of interim relief, such as a stay order.
The core argument advanced by the Petitioners is that the ordinance infringes on their fundamental right to religious freedom and their right to alter their religious beliefs. It is alleged that the Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 violates citizens’ rights under Articles 14 (Right to Equality), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, etc.), 21 (Right to Life), and 25 (Freedom of Religion) of the Indian Constitution and that it is in conflict with the definitive judgment of a Division Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Salamat Ansari v. State of U.P. (2020). The petitioners had also argued that there was no compelling reason for the state to exert its ordinance-making authority under Article 213 of the Constitution and that the state was unable to demonstrate that there was an unpredicted or severe circumstance that justified the law’s passage.
Chief Justice Mathur’s attitude to the law can be summarized in the following excerpt, which was included in his speech on the event of Ambedkar Jayanti earlier this year: “Communalism, caste system, regionalism, gender bias, and a narrow-minded approach to socio-political problems are diametrically opposed to our Constitutional ideologies, and we must combat them courageously, justly, and without any hesitation.”
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