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SC rejects plea on renaming places, says can't be a prisoner of past

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 27, 2023 20:29 IST
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The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a PIL seeking the constitution of a 'renaming commission' to restore "original" names of ancient, cultural and religious places "renamed" by invaders, saying India can't be a prisoner of the past.

IMAGE: Rashtrapati Bhavan's Moghul Garden was recently renamed as Amrit Udyan. Photograph: Manvender Vashist Lav/PTI Photo

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said it is a historical fact that India was invaded several times and even ruled by a foreign power and these facts cannot be wished away selectively.

The history of any country cannot haunt the present and future generations of the nation, the bench said, and questioned the motive of advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the petitioner.


"You want to keep this as a live issue and keep the country on a boil. You want to dig the past and place it before the present generation. What has been buried, let it remain buried, we don't want those issues to come alive and disrupt the harmony among the citizens of the country," the court said. 

Dismissing the PIL, the court said, "It's a historical fact that our country was invaded several times and even ruled by a foreign power. It is part of our history and we cannot wish away these facts selectively. India cannot be a prisoner of its past."

"Have we not got more pressing problems to tend to than constituting this commission? We have to move on rather than move back. What do you want to achieve by filing these kinds of petitions", the bench asked Upadhyay. 

This court is supposed to protect the principles of the Constitution and cannot be an instrument to create havoc and allow anyone to point fingers at any one particular community, the top court said.

"You run down a particular section of society. India is a secular country and this is a secular forum. Our Constitution has adopted the word ‘secular’ and we as protectors of the Constitution will go by that. Let us not break this society by filling such kinds of petitions, please have the country in mind," the top court said.

Upadhyay alleged that many historical and religious places whose mention could be found in ancient scriptures like the Vedas and Puranas were named after the "barbaric invaders", who not only looted the country but destroyed places of religious significance to Hindus. 

"We have roads after Lodhi, Ghazni, Akbar and Ghori but there is not a single road named after the Pandavas in Delhi, though Indraprastha was founded by Yudhishtra. Even Faridabad was named after the person who looted the city," he said, pointing out that a similar petition was pending before this court. 

Justice Joseph told Upadhyay that the pending petition relates to places of religious worship and it has nothing to do with the present petition. 

He pointed out that religious worship has nothing to do with naming roads and said that Mughal emperor Akbar had tried to create harmony between the communities. 

Justice Nagarathna said, "Hinduism is a way of life, which has assimilated everyone. Because of this way of life, we are able to live together. Let us not break it away with such kind of petitions. Keep the harmony of the country in mind instead of religion. There is no bigotry in Hinduism." 

Justice Joseph said that he is a Christian but still he is very fond of Hinduism, which is a great religion and should not be belittled. 

"The heights which Hinduism has reached and is mentioned in Upanishads, Vedas and Bhagvad Gita is unequal in any system. We should be proud of this great religion and not belittle it. We should be proud of our greatness and our greatness makes us magnanimous. I am trying to study it. You should also read the book of Dr S Radhakrishnan on philosophies of Hinduism," he said.

In Kerala, there were several rajas who have donated lands for the churches and other religious places, Justice Joseph added. 

Sensing the mood of the court, Upadhyay sought to withdraw the petition but the bench said it would not allow him to do so and would pass an order and dismiss it. 

In its order, the bench said that India which is Bharat is a secular country and a country cannot remain a prisoner of its past. 

It said that India is governed by the rule of law, secularism and constitutionalism of which Article 14 stands out as the grand guarantee of both equality and fairness in State action. 

"The founding fathers contemplated India to be a republic which is not merely confined to having an elected President which is the conventional understanding but also involves all sections of people. It is a democracy and it is important that the country move forward -- and action must be taken that puts all sections together," the bench said. 

Earlier this month, Upadhyay filed the PIL seeking a direction to the Centre to constitute a 'renaming commission' to restore the "original" names of ancient historical, cultural and religious places which were "renamed" by foreign invaders.

While Mughal Garden was recently renamed as Amrit Udyan, the government did nothing to rename the roads named after invaders, the PIL said, and contended that the continuation of these names is against the sovereignty and other civil rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

The PIL said alternatively, the court may direct the Archaeological Survey of India to research and publish the initial names of ancient historical and cultural religious places, renamed by "barbaric foreign invaders" to secure the Right to Information under the Constitution.

The petition also said, "We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of independence but there are many ancient historical cultural religious places in the name of brutal foreign invaders, their servants and family members." 

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