Madras High Court withdraws comments on Christian Educational Institutions
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Madras High Court withdraws comments on Christian Educational Institutions

Meera Emmanuel

Justice S Vaidyanathan of the Madras High Court on Tuesday withdrew his earlier observations on generalised concerns regarding the safety of students in Christian educational institutions. This was done after a mentioning was made by the Madras Christian College (MCC).

While refusing to quash a show cause notice issued by an Internal Complaints Committee against Professor Samuel Tennyson, who stood accused of having sexual harassed female students of the Zoology department, Justice Vaidyanathan had commented in paragraph 32 of the August 13 order,

“…this Court feels it appropriate to point out that Christian missionaries are always on the source of attack in one way or the other and in the present era, there are several accusations against them for indulging in compulsory conversion of people of other religions into Christianity.

Now, there is a general feeling amongst the parents of students, especially female students that co-educational study in Christian institutions is highly unsafe for the future of their children and though they impart good education, the preach of morality will be a million dollar question. As long as a religion is practiced in streets in lieu of its worship places, like Temple, Mosque, Church, etc., such devastation, as in the present case, does occur and will be mushrooming.”

Appearing for MCC today, Advocate John Zachariah submitted that these comments were irrelevant to the case at hand. Moreover, he also submitted that the comments would be highly detrimental to the interest of all Christian-run institutions rendering yeoman services to the society. He told the Court that one or two stray incidents should not form the basis for such generalised assumptions.

The Court, in turn, has acceded to expunge the controversial remarks, after recording that such redaction would not in any manner alter the findings of the Court in the case. Further, it was also recorded that the issue on which the comments were made was not argued upon by either party to the case. As noted in today’s order,

When this Court posed a question as to whether this Court can remove Paragraph No.32 at this stage in the absence of any Review Petition before this Court, as this Court becomes functuous officio after signing of the order, it was replied that there is no request for reviewing the entire order and a particular observation, which is general in nature is sought to be removed and such removal will not in any way alter the findings / decisions of this Court and therefore, there is no bar for this Court to remove the Paragraph No.32, which is inapplicable to the present case on hand, especially when those points were not at all urged, canvassed, advanced or discussed by either of the counsel at the time of argument in the Open Court.”

Accordingly, the Registry has been directed to upload a revised copy of the order passed by Justice Vaidyanathan. The Court ordered as follows,

In view of the above submission and considering the fact that the general observation in Paragraph No.32 has been made by this Court after the result portion, which will not at any cost affect the findings / substance / contents of the order, the said Paragraph No.32 of the order dated 13.08.2019 is hereby deleted.

Registry is directed to issue a fresh copy of the order after removing the Paragraph No.32 of the order dated 13.08.2019 and by suitably altering the number of subsequent paragraphs.

The development comes following criticism from certain quarters, including the Tamil Nadu Bishop’s Council and the National Commission for Minorities.

While passing the earlier order, the Judge had also recommended that women protection laws should be amended so as to curb its misuse and protect innocent men.

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