Justice Anita Sumanth made the observation in her order criticising State minister Udhayanidhi Stalin for his comments on Sanatana Dharma.

The origin of the caste system as we know it today is less than a century old and the caste divide cannot be solely attributed to the ancient Varna system, the Madras High Court observed in its order criticising State minister Udhayanidhi Stalin for his comments on Sanatana Dharma.

Justice Anita Sumanth agreed that inequities based on caste persist but stated that the origins of the caste system as we know it today are less than a century old.

The Court highlighted that Tamil Nadu has 370 registered castes and noted the tension among people belonging to different castes. She added that this animosity among people from different castes is partly ‘on account of the benefits made available to them’.

“This Court agrees unequivocally that there are inequities based on caste present in society today and that they are to be eschewed. However, the origins of the caste system as we know it today are less than a century old. The State of Tamil Nadu has 370 registered castes and the State is a cacophony of pulls and pressures by groups of persons claiming allegiance to one caste or the other. This ferocity among persons belonging to different castes is also, in part, on account of the benefits made available to them,” the Court said.

On whether these circumstances could be blamed entirely on the ancient Varna system, the Court said,

“Can one lay the blame for these torturous circumstances entirely on the ancient Varna system? The answer is emphatically in the negative.”

The Court acknowledged that throughout history, people have attacked one another in the name of caste and stated that it unequivocally deprecated such events.

To correct this unfairness of the past, there must be continuous repair and damage control along with sincere introspection on potential methods to correct injustices and foster equality, the Court added.

Furthermore, the Court stated that the Varna system contemplates division based on avocation and not based on birth.

“The varna system does not contemplate division on the basis of birth, but based on avocation. The system was designed to work towards the smooth functioning of society centuries ago where the chief avocations were identified based on the then needs of society. The relevance of such a system today, is itself moot,” it stated.

The order was passed on a petition filed against Stalin, State minister PK Sekarbabu and Member of Parliament (MP) A Raja by the Hindu Munnani questioning their continuance in office despite such statement.

On September 2, 2023, at a conference organised by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association in Chennai, Stalin had said that a few things must not merely be opposed but should be eradicated.

“Just like dengue, mosquitoes, malaria, or coronavirus need to be eradicated, we have to eradicate Sanatana,” he had said leading to widespread outrage.

Office bearers of right wing organisation Hindu Munnani then filed three writ petitions before the High Court taking objection to Stalin’s remarks.

They sought issuance of a writ of quo warranto seeking explanation from Stalin, Sekarbabu and A Raja under what authority were they were continuing to hold public offices despite having participated in a conference calling for the annihilation of Sanatana Dharma.

Stalin maintained that his comments were not against Hindu or Hinduism but against caste system.

On Wednesday, the Court criticised Stalin for his comments but refused to remove him as a Minister.

The Court said that it cannot pass such a direction unless Stalin is disqualified under law from holding the post.

The Court also said that making unverified claims about Sanatana Dharma amounted to spreading misinformation but refrained from issuing a writ of quo warranto to remove Stalin as minister.

Courtesy : Bar and Bench