Shabir Shah, a Kashmiri separatist, was being tried at the Patiala House Court in Delhi on Thursday for a decade-old money laundering case, when Rajeev Awasthi, the lawyer representing the Enforcement Directorate against him, asked him to chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' to prove his patriotism.
According to the Press Trust Of India, Awasthi, was demanding Shah's custody be extended to facilitate further interrogation. The Telegraph reports that during the proceedings, Shah's lawyer argued that Shah was a law-abiding citizen and had complete faith in India's Constitution and judiciary. It was then that Awasthi countered the argument by asking Shah to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' ,if he was indeed loyal to the Indian Constitution.
Thankfully, additional sessions judge Siddharth Sharma put a swift end to this melodrama by asking Awasthi to stick to facts instead of indulging in jingoism.
He told Awasthi: "This (the courtroom) is not a TV studio. If you want to say these things, you should sit in a TV studio."
Over the past couple of years some Indians have arrived at several 'tests' of patriotism, which, according to them, enable people to conclusively figure a person's loyalties to India -- or at least their idea of India. One of those tests involve dropping everything and standing in attention if your ears happen to catch the strains of the national anthem anywhere. A few months back, that sentiment got a boost when the Supreme Court declared that people who don't stand up when the national anthem is played before movies in theatres could face legal action. The other is, of course, how readily one can chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.
It has been widely argued that, etymologically, 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' has roots in Hinduism with the religion's tradition of worshipping female figures as deities. As a result it may not resonate with people of all creeds and colour, whereas 'Jai Hind' has a wider appeal, having relatively less religious undertones. However, in the current political climate, 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' has emerged as the patriotic refrain du jour.
MS Khan, who was representing Shabir Shah, told The Telegraph: "If the Constitution makes it mandatory to chant 'Bharat Mata ki jai' to prove one's nationalist credentials, then we will all do it. But what kind of precedent was my lawyer friend trying to set? I'm thankful that the judge immediately intervened and pulled him up."
Awasthi said that he got emotional when the defence counsel argued that Shah had faith in India's Constitution. He told reporters, "I turned very emotional when Shah's counsel tried to glorify him by insisting that his client had complete faith in Indian law and the Constitution.... I drew on my craft and skills as a lawyer to immediately ask the accused to chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' to prove his counsel's point."
Shah is being accused to using foreign funds to sponsor terrorist activities against India.
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