New Delhi: Justice S.R. Sen of the Meghalaya high court claimed on Saturday that his controversial judgment was “misinterpreted” and that “secularism is one of the basic structures” of the Constitution. On December 12, disposing a petition, he had said that India should have declared itself a Hindu country at the time of partition.
He had also said only Prime Minister Narendra Modi could ensure that India does not become ‘another Islamic country’. In his clarification, he claimed that when he mentioned the “Government under Shri. Narendra Modiji”, it is inclusive of the ministers and members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
“I also mentioned about the Chief Minister of West Bengal, which did not mean that other Chief Ministers of other States were not included. My request was to the policy makers and law makers of the country,” he said.
Saying he did not belong to any political party, Justice Sen denied he had any political aspirations after his retirement. “I also mention that I am not a religious fanatic rather I respect all the religions because to me God is one,” he stated.
Justice Sen’s judgment was disposing a petition by Amon Rana, who was denied a domicile certificate by the Meghalaya government. He said that certain utterances in the judgment should be read in the context that most people of the country are not aware of the importance of documents such as birth certificate and domicile records. “That is why many people of Indian origin may not have any of those documents especially due to the continuous disapora,” he said on Saturday.
The presence of these Indian origin people in the country was due to the “religious persecution” they have faced for generations. “..nobody can deny that”, said Justice Sen. He said people who face religious persecution and have not been able to migrate to India should have the right to stay in India “peacefully and with dignity”. The authorities would decide the due process, he said.
These statements have been interpreted as Justice Sen expressing support to the Centre’s attempt to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, among others. Groups in Meghalaya have opposed this amendment.
“It is not uncommon to find people living in India for generations and yet having no proper records or documentation. It would be inhumane to uproot them and displace them once again,” he said.
Here, he was referring to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam. His judgment said that the process was defective “as many foreigners become Indians and original Indians are left out which is very sad”.
He said that no single region or state should take the “burden of influx” and it must instead be shared by all states. All Indian states should embrace “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains, Parsis, Khasis, Jaintias and Garos”, he said, making some glaring exceptions to the list.
On Friday, the Communist Party of India demanded Justice Sen’s immediate removal from judicial duties. Other political leaders had also questioned utterances in the judgment.