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Won’t take oath on Gita, says ‘atheist’ civic official

‘Not allowed’ to depose, writes to Bombay HC seeking inquiry.

ath on gita, gita, holy book, bombay high court, buddism, atheist, atheism, SST, mumbai news, city news, local news, mumbai newslineA civic official, who believes in Buddhism and professes atheism, wants himself heard by either the Bombay High Court or the Supreme Court over what he says is a “neglected issue” when it comes to atheists such as himself.

Sunil Bhalerao, in a letter written to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, said that he was not allowed to depose in a local court as he refused to take oath on the Bhagavad Gita.The law degree holder, who also has a PhD, said that for him there is nothing beyond the Indian Constitution and he would rather take its oath in court on the Constitution.

During the Lok Sabha elections last year, Bhalerao, an assistant municipal commissioner with the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation, was on election duty. Bhalerao and his Static Surveillance Team (SST) were on the lookout for any anomaly during the movement of vehicles, especially with the code of conduct in place.

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On April 5, 2014, at around 4.23 pm, his team intercepted a white Maruti Swift at Bhiwandi’s Sai Baba junction having the label of a political party and searched the car. The surveillance team, comprising a police constable, a videographer, a driver and Bhalerao himself, recovered Rs 6 lakh from the car’s boot.

“As an officer on election duty, I had magisterial powers at that time. So, I arrested the owner and two others who were in the case and took them to the Shanti Nagar police station and got a case registered,” said Bhalerao, adding that the car belonged to a person named Ashok Thawani.

A case was then registered under relevant sections of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. The first hearing in the case was in a Bhiwandi magistrate court before judge D P Kale on March 4, 2015. “As a crucial witness in the case, I had to depose before the judge giving the evidence,” said Bhalerao.

As he stood in the court’s witness box to give his evidence and statement, Bhalerao was to take an oath on the religious book. However, he refused to place his hand on the Gita and take oath, saying that he does not believe in God.

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The assistant municipal commissioner, who believes in principles of Lord Buddha, finished his schooling in Thane and went on to purse Bachelor of Science in graduation at Mumbai’s Siddhartha College. “I went on to pursue LLB and LLM later from University of Mumbai,” he said.

“I told the judge that I do not mind taking oath on the Indian Constitution as I had done previously on three occasions in the Thane Sessions Court before judge Giridhari. However, the judge asked me to leave and I was not allowed to depose,” said Bhalerao.

He said that the judge’s refusal not to allow him to take oath on the Constitution also amounts to its insult. “There should be an inquiry and the judge should be directed to record my evidence,” he wrote.

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For Bhalerao, readings on Dr B R Ambedkar and Buddhism changed his mind when he had just entered college.

“After I started believing in Buddhism, I realised one does not need to believe in God. Like how Hinduism, Islam and Christianity asks for believing in God or its messenger, I do not think I am a son of God. I am a son of man and that is what I want to believe in,” said Bhalerao.

aamir.khan@expressindia.com

First published on: 06-04-2015 at 01:11:37 am
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