Bombay High Court To Hear Plea Seeking Removal of Chairperson of National Commission for Women

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A Writ Petition had been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the conduct of the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women. The Petitioner has submitted that the official Acts of the said person intend to promote communal disharmony in society.  

Brief Facts

The National Commission for Women is the statutory body set up as an advisory to the Government for matters concerning women. The National Commission of Women Act, 1990 governs the functioning of the body. Recently, the Chairperson of the Commission, Ms Rekha Sharma garnered attention for allegedly promoting anti-Islamic theory- ‘love jihad’ on her social media handle. She claimed that she discussed issues relating to women’s safety and rise in love jihad cases in a meeting with the Governor of Maharashtra.

Therefore, the petitioner, Activist Saket Gokhale, has filed a writ petition challenging the capability of the Chairperson to hold the said position. It is alleged that she interfered with the freedom of inter-faith couples to practice their religion by passing remarks using a baseless communal narrative.

Contents of the Petition

The petitioner has objected to the latter part of the tweet which refers to the theoretical concept of ‘love jihad’. The terminology indicates a communal dog whistle policy that targets the Muslim community and vilifies the inter-faith couple for practising their respective religions. With the use of such concepts in an official capacity, the Chairperson jeopardizes secularity of the State and poses questions on her ability to perform in a non-partisan secular manner.

The Plea also takes a jibe by stating that such terminology emanates from a conspiracy against one faith as it has never existed in the Law of the land. Without isolating this incident, the Chairperson also authored several tweets that can be found as extremely misogynist and sexist. These tweets infringe on the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, under Section 4(3)(d) of the said Act, the Chairperson must be removed as she has a clouded judgment that would disable her to act in consonance with the principles of the Constitution. 

Further, the petitioner has placed reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in Lata Singh v. State of UP and another. The Apex Court had observed the dire need to protect parties to an inter-caste/ inter-religious marriage. It held that a free democratic country must ensure that a person of majority must get the right to marry their choice. Thus, the Plea stated- “Issuing a statement on the official Twitter handle is not a mere casual conversation but an indication of an official policy goal of demonizing inter-faith marriages.”         

Relevance

The country also witnessed an uproar via social media troll when a television commercial portrayed a scene of an inter-faith marriage. The “netizens” had trolled the brand for promoting ‘love jihad’ views with unverified reports of vandalism at certain places. Subsequently, succumbing to the pressure and legitimizing the trolls, the company retracted the advertisement. Hence, it became a pertinent issue of whether a secular country like India welcomed inter-faith marriage or did it entangle the same with a long-standing communal dispute.


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