Speech about Sanatana Dharma my right: DMK leader A Raja

He stressed that the freedom to profess a religion cannot take away the freedom of speech.
DMK leader and MP A Raja. (File Photo | PTI)
DMK leader and MP A Raja. (File Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI:  DMK leader and Lok Sabha Member A Raja told the Madras High Court he has the right to freedom of expression to talk about the ‘undesirable facets’ of Sanatana Dharma. Making the submissions on behalf of Raja, senior counsel R Viduthalai said, “As an MP, I have the freedom of expression regarding the undesirable facets of Sanatana Dharma or matter of freedom of conscience.”

Saying that he represents the Nilgiris constituency having a majority of marginalised people in the Lok Sabha, the council said the solemn duty and responsibility to actively contribute to the betterment and well-being of the nation and promote the constitutionally guaranteed equality among its citizens irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sex etc. 

He stressed that the freedom to profess a religion cannot take away the freedom of speech. “Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution is placed above the right under Article 25 of the Constitution and includes the right to conscience and the right to criticise abominable religious practices,” he said. The submission was made before Justice Anita Sumanth on the petitions filed by three persons seeking quo warranto writ against TN Ministers Udhayanidhi Stalin, PK Sekarbabu and MP A Raja for their comments over the Sanatana Dharma. 

The senior counsel also contended that if such dissemination provides a critical narrative that speaks against the unconstitutional principles envisaged in the Sanatana Dharma, the same has to be duly protected as a part and parcel of the right of Raja to freely express under Article 19(1)(a) (right to free speech). “Any attempt to impose limitations on constructive critique would undeniably pose a significant threat to the vitality of democracy.” 

Viduthalai said that seeking issuance of a writ of quo warranto against an MP or a minister for unstated grounds of disqualification would amount to requesting the court to ‘rewrite’ the Constitution and would be ‘antithesis’ of democracy offending the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. Moreover, the doctrine of separation of powers and the statutory rules of interpretation do not permit issuance of writ quo warranto nor does it permit the judiciary to ‘super add’ a condition of disqualification. The matter has been posted for November 24 for further arguments.

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