New Delhi: Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav of the Allahabad high court is at it again.
He made news recently for his remarks that parliament should make a law declaring the cow a “national animal” and include cows within the ambit of fundamental rights. Justice Yadav made these remarks while denying bail to a man accused of cow slaughter.
On Friday, while granting bail to a man accused of making obscene remarks against Lord Rama and Krishna on Facebook, the judge observed that Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, the Ramayana, Gita and its authors Maharishi Valmiki and Maharishi Ved Vyas respectively, are part of the country’s heritage, and should be so recognised by the Indian parliament, by enacting a law.
The judge described the obscene remarks made by the accused as an injury to the faith of the majority of the people of this country and as spoiling the peace and harmony in society, with innocent people being made to bear the brunt of it. Justice Yadav said that if the court was lenient in this case, it would be a morale booster for similar accused, whose conduct would harm the country’s harmony.
However, he granted bail to the accused, taking note of the fact that he had been in jail for 10 months when the trial has not yet started, and is unlikely to end in the near future. The judge gave the accused conditional bail, citing the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dataram Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh in which it was held that although the judge’s discretion in the grant or refusal of bail is unfettered, it must be exercised judiciously and in a humane manner and compassionately.
Making a reference to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Babri Masjid-Ram janmabhoomi title case, Justice Yadav said that the apex court had given a verdict in favour of those who believe in Lord Ram. Justice Yadav added that Lord Ram resides in the heart of every citizen, and is the country’s soul, identity and culture, and without him, India is incomplete.
Recognising that the Indian Constitution grants similar rights to both believers and atheists, Justice Yadav added that the latter cannot abuse this freedom by making obscene pictures of gods and circulate them publicly.
Justice Yadav also urged mandatory inclusion of lessons for children in all schools on India’s heritage.
Although Justice Yadav relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dataram Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh to grant the accused conditional bail, he seems to have ignored the apex court’s dictum in that case that it is not necessary to go into the correctness or otherwise of the allegations against the accused at the time of grant or refusal of bail. “This is a matter that will, of course, be dealt by the trial Judge,” Justice Madan B. Lokur, who authored that judgment, had written.
Elevated from the Bar, Justice Yadav was appointed as additional judge on December 12, 2019, and confirmed as a permanent judge on March 26 this year. He retires on April 15, 2026.
In 2014, then Supreme court judge Justice A.R. Dave had made a similar statement while speaking at a public event, when he urged compulsory teaching of the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata to children at an early age in schools. His statement provoked a strong riposte from the then chairman of the Press Council, Markandey Katju, who condemned it as being against India’s secularism.
In 2018, Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen of Meghalaya high court had written in one of his orders that India should have become a Hindu country after Partition. A few months after his retirement, a division bench led by Meghalaya Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew overruled Justice Sen’s order, holding it “legally flawed”, “inconsistent with the Constitutional principles” and offending the “secular colour of the country”.
Bar and Bench has quoted the former chief justice of the Allahabad high court, Justice Govind Mathur, as having criticised Justice Yadav for misusing the court as a platform to impose his ideas, faith or philosophy. He was also critical of Justice Yadav for touching on the merits of the case in the bail order, and for the delay of 42 days in the delivery of the order after hearing the case. The order in Hindi was uploaded without an English translation, which too invited Justice Mathur’s disapproval. It goes without saying, however, that Justice Yadav’s recommendation to Parliament is not binding on it, and the latter may well ignore it.