Addressing a public rally in Delhi Union Minister of State Ms Niranjan Joyti asked people to choose while voting between the children of Lord Ram and illegitimate offspring. After opposition uproar the Minister offered an apology that failed to satisfy members. They demanded her resignation.
Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley told the House: “The Minister concerned has apologized, expressed regret. I would urge the House to allow the proceedings of the House to continue. ..You can't use proceedings of the House to start an investigation.” Mr. Jaitley admitted that the Minister’s remarks were “improper and unacceptable” but added that the House could not decide whether her speech was criminal. He said that decision should be left to agencies outside the House. Apart from criminality was there no moral issue of propriety to persuade the government to act against the Minister? The Prime Minister’s reported reprimand to the Minister and Mr. Jaitley’s apologetic justification for inaction do not suffice. For a Prime Minister who exercises such unfettered power as to select the private secretaries of all his Ministers it is strange that he does not act against an errant Minister.
Ms. Jyoti is a Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh groomed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to create a Dalit footprint in Miss Mayawati’s home turf. Ms Jyoti’s political mentor is the fiery Saadhvi Rithambra whose extreme pro-Hindu views have often created controversy. But surely basic requirements of political propriety should override considerations of vote bank politics. The government’s failure to act against the Minister might backfire if indeed litigants approach the courts to decide the issue of criminality following Mr. Jaitley’s suggestion that only agencies outside parliament should decide the matter.
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code punishes with imprisonment up to five years and fine anyone ...
“Whoever (a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility.”
By offering a choice between the children of Lord Ram and the rest born illegitimately did not Ms. Jyoti implicitly render all non-Hindu religious communities born of illegitimate parentage? Regardless of what the Minister might have meant the consequences of her thoughtless remarks potentially are very offensive and damaging to communal harmony. Should such an indiscreet Minister be allowed to continue unpunished? The Prime Minister had better decide this before any court passes its judgment.