The Supreme Court of India once again upheld the demands of truth and justice and asserted the plural ethos of the country by dismissing a petition seeking a direction for a declaration that Jharkhand Governor Syed Ahmad was “not fit to hold the post” as he had taken oath in the name of “Allah” instead of “god or Eshwar”. In a Dec. 13 verdict, a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya also imposed a fine of Rs. 1 lakh on the petitioner Kamal Nayan Prabhakar. Initially a Rs.5-lakh fine was imposed but with the pleading of counsel Mithilesh Kumar Singh the fine was pruned. But what is remarkable is that with this pruning comes a reasoned argument from the learned Judges. “Your client has come with a sinister motive. He has tried to draw a comparison with the Constitution of Pakistan. World over in the mythology, god is described as formless. Why do you want to confine him to a name or image? It is very sickening,” the Bench said.
In the swearing-in ceremony held on Sep. 4, 2011 at the Raj Bhavan, Mr. Ahmad took the oath saying “Allah Ke Naam Par”. This infuriated those who do not know the meaning of the word ‘Allah’ as also those who love to hate this word, so much so that they wished him to swear in the name of “god or Eshwar” or say simply “solemnly affirm.” The judicial adventure of Mr. Prabhakar may be due to utter ignorance as he is still a student. But his moving the Jharkhand High Court and, after having got his petition dismissed there, the Apex Court, smacks of some ultranationalist outfit behind the entire episode. This is nothing new as we Indians more often than not see the ultranationalists creating an issue out of a non-issue.
Earlier also, in a Jul 21, 2006 verdict, the High Court of Kerala dismissed a PIL seeking a declaration that 11 MLAs, who had taken oath in the name of Allah, be disqualified. A Division Bench of Justices J B Koshy and V Ramkumar held that Allah is the synonym of “God” and taking oath in the name of Allah is constitutional. Unsatisfied by the HC verdict, the petitioner Madhu Parumala, vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Kerala unit, moved the Supreme Court, which in its Nov 16, 2007 judgement averred that taking oath in the name of ‘Allah’ at the time of swearing-in is legal and Constitutionally valid.
With these repeated drubbings from the courts of law, the Prabhakars and the Parumalas are expected to see the reason and realise the futility of creating an issue out of a non-issue. It is high time they took an academic venture to study the wisdom in swearing in the name of Allah rather than in the name of anything else.