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JAINS ARE NOT HINDUS, APEX COURT TOLD 

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FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT   |   Published 04.04.02, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, April 4 :    New Delhi, April 4:  The largest Constitution bench hearing issues of 'minority', 'religion' and 'language' was today told that Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis could not be taken to be part of Hindu religion simply because Hindu laws applied to them for marriage, inheritance, and adoption. Arguing that 'philosophy is broader and law is narrower', senior counsel and former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Jains' educational institutions, told the 11-judge bench that 'historically and culturally' Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains came from Hindus and hence the Hindu laws were applied. But that 'does not mean that they are not a separate religion and only (a) part of (the) Hindu mainstream'. The argument was put forward by the counsel to buttress his contention that Jains should not be put in a disadvantageous position and denied the rights and privileges of minority institutions. He told the court that the Hindu Marriage Act was applicable to all these religions but they are not 'sects' of Hinduism like Lingayat, Virshaiva, Brahmos and Arya Samajis. He cited Section 2 of the Act which states that the law is applicable to Hindus and to others like Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists 'by religion'. This expression - 'by religion' - clearly makes the distinction that the three are separate religions, he argued. The Act itself bracketed Arya Samajis, Brahmos, Virshaiva and Lingayats with the Hindu religion as its sects, Bhushan argued. The arguments on behalf of Muslim minority educational institutions from Karnataka were concluded by Fali Nariman, after which Bhushan took over. Another legal luminary, K.K. Venugopal, will speak for Tamil Nadu, Chhattsigarh and Madhya Pradesh after Bhushan finishes his arguments which are likely to continue for two more days. After Venugopal finishes, arguments will be put forward for Kerala and Maharashtra. This is the largest bench ever to go into three crucial expressions - 'religion', 'minority' and 'language' - as appearing in Article 30 of the Constitution and would also determine what constitutes a minority. Bhushan contended that in 1919 the Jain gurus in a Mahasabha passed a resolution making it clear that they would set up their educational institutions to propagate, preach and educate students about their 'religious philosophy'. Then institutions were set up where the Jain religion was taught as a subject 'although other secular subjects were also taught', Bhushan said. While Brahmos and Arya Samajis are considered to be part of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs are not. In another judgment, the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed a petition contending that Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna were not Hindus and constituted a separate religion. In this case, the apex court said they were an integral part of the Hindu religion and were major reformers of the Hindu society. The arguments will continue on a day-to-day basis.    


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