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Madras HC Advocates Urge SC Collegium To Recall Proposal To Elevate Victoria Gowri Citing Statements Against Minorities & Political Affiliation

Awstika Das
2 Feb 2023 9:59 AM GMT
Madras HC Advocates Urge SC Collegium To Recall Proposal To Elevate Victoria Gowri Citing Statements Against Minorities & Political Affiliation

Amid the controversy over judicial appointments escalating, the decision of the Supreme Court collegium to nominate Advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri for judgeship at the Madras High Court has come under the scanner, with a section of the bar criticising the recommendation as ‘disturbing’ and against the interests of the independence of the judiciary.

In a letter addressed to President Drapaudi Murmu and the Supreme Court collegium, the group of advocates have raised alarm over the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Gowri, who, by her own admission, is the general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party Mahila Morcha. “We write, with a sense of foreboding, in these troubled times, when the judiciary is facing unprecedented and unwarranted criticism from the executive, as we are apprehensive that appointments such as these may pave the way for undermining the independence of the judiciary. It is extremely critical, at this juncture, to safeguard the institution from being weakened by its own administrative action.”

Screenshot of purported Twitter account of Victoria Gowri (now deactivated), which has been annexed in the representation.

'Hate speech against minorities'

The collegium, comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and K.M. Joseph, had proposed the names of Gowri and four other lawyers for elevation to the High Court on January 17. However, many have subsequently questioned the decision in light of the political affiliations of nominee. Gowri has also received criticism for what has been described as ‘hate speech’ against religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. The Madras High Court Bar members, including advocates N.G.R. Prasad, R. Vaigai, S.S. Vasudevan, Anna Mathew, and D. Nagasaila have alleged that Gowri’s ‘regressive views’ are completely ‘antithetical’ to foundational constitutional values and “reflect her deep-rooted religious bigotry making her unfit to be appointed as a High Court judge”.

The letter also states, “The Collegium's recommendation of a person who harbours such strong antipathy towards the minority community is disturbing, to say the least.” Any person spewing vitriolic comments of this nature ought to be prosecuted under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, the advocates have asserted.

To substantiate their claims, reliance has been placed on remarks made by the Supreme Court’s nominee, in two interviews on a YouTube channel. The interviews are captioned ‘The More Threat to National Security & Peace?Jihad or Christian Missionary?’ and ‘Cultural genocide by Christian Missionaries in Bharat - Victoria Gowri’. They also cite an article titled ‘Aggressive baptising destroying social harmony’ published on October 1, 2012 in an RSS publication, in which Gowri wrote, “But not a finger is lifted to stop allured and coerced conversions and to prevent Christians from conceiving communal conflicts,” and “for fifty years, the marginalised Hindus have been fighting the mighty Christian diocese. But now the situation is out of control.”

“In the context of Ms. Gowri's utterances, can any litigant belonging to Muslim or Christian community ever hope to get justice in her Court, if she becomes a Judge?” the advocates have asked. The letter also claims that the recommendation to appoint Gowri, “a person who makes no bones about her hatred towards the minority communities”, as a judge would also erode public confidence in the independence of the judiciary.

Click here to read the representation sent to the SC collegium

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