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SPEAK UP New Delhi Province (INN)

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PARAPPULLY Jose, New Delhi says,
DISTURBING VERDICTS AND OPINIONS. Holding Up to the Light- 8
By Jose Parappully
forum
360° VIEW
New Delhi, Jan. 24. Some reflections on the recent Supreme Court Judgement on Graham Staine`s murder case and the reactions of media and civil society leaders in contrast to that of Christian spokespersons.

On January 22, The Indian Express and other newspapers carried a disturbing verdict by two judges of Supreme Court. In their judgment Justices P. Sathasivam and B. S. Chauhan observed that that the murder of Graham Stains (along with his two young sons burned to death while sleeping in their car) was ``to teach a lesson`` to the missionary and justified the mitigation of the sentence of the murderer Dara Singh from death to life imprisonment.

I wonder what would happen to the course and conclusion of murder trials in this country if this argument sets a precedent. Murder is OK, or can be condoned, if the ``intention is to teach a lesson.`` So, I guess, the Gujarat carnage, the post-Indira Gandhi-murder rioting and killing, the ``honour`` killings and so on... could be justified or condoned as the intention in all these cases, it can be argued, could be ``to teach a lesson.`` A husband suspecting his wife of infidelity can kill her, ``to teach a lesson.`` A bully on the school/college campus can be killed ``to teach a lesson.`` Rather frightening, isn`t it!

Hence it was very gratifying to read the next day (23/01) headlines in The Hindu (``Expunge remarks against Graham Staines`` 23/01) that leading editors, media groups and civil society across the country had signed a statement taking strong exception to the Supreme Court`s observation, and demanded that it be expunged from the records, being ``gratuitous`` and ``unconstitutional.`` The judges had gone beyond their brief and based their argument on their own religious beliefs and sentiments rather than on legal criteria and demands. The judgment was sending ``wrong signals to the courts trying cases of religious violence in Kandhamal, for instance, and other places.`` Such a judgement was ``supporting the bigoted point of view of right wing fundamentalists such as the Sangh Parivar.``

In this instance, the media and civil society leaders have demonstrated greater sanity and rationality than the judges.  But the same cannot be said of some of our Christian leaders and spokespersons. The Hindu newspaper also carried in the inside pages (p.3) the same day comments of John Dayal, the secretary general of the All India Christian Council and Joseph D`Souza, its president. Both expressed ``satisfaction`` over the judgment. Dayal expressed this satisfaction even though ``he is yet to analyse the full judgement.`` How could these spoke-persons have expressed satisfaction when the judges` observation was blatantly anti-Christian? The judges had used the same arguments that fundamentalist Hindus had been using and which the Christian Churches had been denouncing, namely ``interfering in someone`s belief by way of `use of force`... conversion...on a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other,`` a judgment which as The Hindu pointed out, supported ``the bigoted point of view of right wing fundamentalists such as the Sangh Parivar.``

Shouldn`t Christian spokes-persons express opinions after adequate analysis and understanding of reports, especially when the matter is grave and sensitive?


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