6 Sep 2023 1:20 PM GMT
On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the Meitei Christian Churches Council, Manipur (MCCCM) in a petition concerning destruction of churches in Manipur, raised objection to a paragraph in the affidavit filed by Chief Secretary of Manipur in the matter. Ahmadi was appearing before a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra...
On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the Meitei Christian Churches Council, Manipur (MCCCM) in a petition concerning destruction of churches in Manipur, raised objection to a paragraph in the affidavit filed by Chief Secretary of Manipur in the matter. Ahmadi was appearing before a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra and referred to the affidavit as 'deeply disturbing'.
He stated that instead of addressing the issue, the affidavit had sought to attribute motives on legally untenable grounds. He termed the statement in the affidavit as "whataboutery" as it questioned the petitioner for only taking up the cause of destruction of churches
"What disturbs me today is this affidavit. It is really disturbing. What is sought to be done is rather than address the issue, motives are sought to be attributed on grounds that are alien on any legal principle. Let me assume for the sake of an argument that I highlight a particular issue. I am not in the way of restoring all places of worship to the original stand. But is this, on a legal basis, a legally tenable stand on behalf of the state? To say that I highlight the case in respect of certain places of worship and takeover of certain places of worship – can that be a ground to say that you only highlighted the cause of churches?"
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State, said–
"You cannot be selective."
However, Ahmadi urged the SG to let him finish and asserted–
"I submit that all places of worship should be restored, wherever it is happening. But so far as I am concerned, I highlight a particular clause. I am for the church institution. To allege this, this is deeply disturbing also to me".
Ahmadi further added that the Government affidavit had statements against the lawyer appearing for the judges' committee.
"To make these allegations even against the counsel of the commission, in my submission, is deeply disturbing."
The senior advocate was referring to the alleged allegations made against Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, who was representing the judges' committee constituted by the Supreme Court in relation to Manipur violence cases. He added–
"If counsels are not protected by your lordships while appearing, they will feel hesitant in making submissions. The tenor of this is disturbing. It says it is not adversarial but it is actually adversarial."
It may be noted that even Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora objected to the affidavit today and expressed the intention to recuse from the matter, citing 'direct attacks' against her.
Taking this into account, the CJI said to the SG–
"In all future reports, let's keep counsel out of it. They are doing this as their duty to the court."
The petitioner has complained that the State and the Centre did not do anything to prevent the destruction of churches belonging to the Meitei Christians in Manipur during the communal clashes. As per the petition–
"These church properties and its grounds are being used for other purposes. In most cases, the title documents etc were looted or torched along with the church properties and the Petitioners no longer have any documentary evidence in their possession. If the conversion of church properties for use of other communities is not stopped immediately, the Petitioners may not be in a position to retrieve them at all."
Accordingly, the petition has sought for an immediate action to be taken to stop the further desecration of church properties and to preserve the same. On the previous hearing date, the bench had noted that the petition raised the issue of the destruction of 642 places of worship.
Case : W.P.(C) No. 875/2023