Chief Justice of India J S Khehar on Tuesday said he was “happy to be in a country which could honour you to be proud of your religion” and reminded lawyers that they “should make persons belonging to every religion proud.” “Whether it is Christians or Buddhists or Hindus or Zoroastrians or Muslims or Jains. Everybody should be proud in his own religion to be an Indian. Everybody should be proud in his own ethnicity, proud of it, to be a northeast Indian, proud of being an Indian and that’s what the Constitution is all about,” he told a gathering of Supreme Court judges and senior lawyers at the Independence Day celebrations organised by Supreme Court Bar Association. The event was also attended by Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The CJI said he was born in Kenya when it was a British colony. His forefathers had migrated there fleeing their home in Lahore to evade arrest by British. “In a colony, you are the subjects of the empire. And when you get independence, you become, each one of you, citizens of a free country. On paper, it seems nothing.”
He went on: “After you are a citizen, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone… And that is how in our country, we have a President who is a Dalit who spend his childhood in a mud hut, we have a Vice President who is an agricultaralist who started his political career pasting posters, we have a Prime Minister who used to be…a tea vendor and you have a Chief Justice who was not a citizen of this country to start with and when he did become a citizen… he was equal to everybody else and he had an equal opportunity. This is what citizenship is. This is what independence is…”
Speaking earlier, Prasad said India is not secular because of the Constitution, but because its cultural heritage is secular. Prasad welcomed the Supreme Court’s move to introduce a common entrance test for recruitment of judges of the lower judiciary. He also urged high courts and states that had expressed reservations on the proposed move to reconsider their stand.
“Government of India in no way would want to impinge upon the rights of the high court… but yes, it is a fact that subordinate judiciary needs to have better intake, good quality,” he said. Some high courts have objected to the proposal for a common exam for this as they want administrative control of the lower judiciary. Prasad also hailed the NDA government’s digital push, but said he will not speak on Aadhaar as the matter was sub-judice.