Debate rages on holding judges' conference on Good Friday

Two judges of the Supreme Court of India, one serving and the other retired, have agreed to disagree on the need for holding a two-day all India judges' conference in the national capital on the occasion of Good Friday, a religious event sacred to Christians.

New Delhi: Two judges of the Supreme Court of India, one serving and the other retired, have agreed to disagree on the need for holding a two-day all India judges' conference in the national capital on the occasion of Good Friday, a religious event sacred to Christians.

Good Friday is observed as a day of mourning as it was the day Jesus Christ was crucified. It is considered a very important day of the Christian calendar.

While apex court judge Justice Kurian Joseph believes that holding a judges' conference on a national holiday like Good Friday could result in marring the nation's secular fabric, his former colleague, Justice KT Thomas, says when Christians in the United States can go to work on Good Friday and treat it like any other working day of the week, why should a similar situation not prevail in India.

In an anguished letter to the chief justices of all high courts, Justice Joseph expressed his concern about the prestigious All India Chief Justices Conference being organized on April 3 on Good Friday.

In his letter, he said he was of the view that a constitutional authority such as the Supreme Court must respect the concept of why the national holiday was declared in the first place.

He even had a one-on-one meeting with the Chief Justice of India, H L Dattu on the matter, reports a magazine.

Justice Joseph told India Legal in an interview: "What worries me is that instances like this would mar the secular image of the country. What really matters is the message something like this is sending."

Retired Justice Thomas, however, countered this line of thinking.

He told the magazine: "Why cannot we work on Good Friday? In America, where 98 percent are Christians, Good Friday is a working day. Christians can attend church service and go to work. But in India, we are obsessed with a holiday culture. I am totally opposed to this holiday mania that we suffer from."

Christian leaders like Father Dominic Emmanuel of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese also voiced their unease about this.

He said: "In a secular country, all religions have to be respected. It is not a question about a minority religion. It is about the Indian Constitution which talks about respect to all religions. The death of Jesus Christ is a universally accepted fact and Good Friday is a remembrance of that day. It is a universally known fact. It would be in the order of things if this is corrected."

Chief Justice Dattu, however, maintains that the date of the conference was fixed a long time ago, and therefore, it was impossible to change it, given that a large number of dignitaries like chief ministers would be taking part in the conference that he will inaugurate.

In 2014, the NDA Government attracted a lot of flak from minority leaders when they declared Christmas (December 25) as Good Governance Day.

It is expected that the judges' conference will see several chief justices presenting papers dealing with the financial autonomy of the judiciary and the computerization and strengthening of the judicial academy.

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