How Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to my rescue
Justice Markandey Katju
I have never met the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But I wish to narrate an incident where he came to my rescue.
I was then a Judge of the Allahabad High Court when this incident happened.
At that time the BJP was in power both in the Centre as well as in UP. Atalji was the PM, and the 'Loh Purush' the Dy.PM.
A case, Mohd.Sharif Saifi vs State of UP, writ petition 43403 of 1998 ( see online ) came before a bench of the Allahabad High Court presided over by me. The petitioners were some Muslims, and their grievance was that they were not being allowed to construct a mosque on their own land.
Many Muslims in UP had that grievance, and they had often to say their Friday prayers on the public roads or public places as they were not permitted by the authorities to construct mosques.
The stand of the respondent govt was that no permission had been obtained from the District Magistrate for building a mosque.
In our judgment, delivered on 28.1.1999 we held that this is a free, democratic and secular country, and so Muslims had a right to construct a mosque on their own land, or even on someone else's land if he permits. For this no permission of the D.M. was required, as there was no such statutory requirement.
This judgment created a furore in UP, and the matter was reported, as I learnt later, to the then powers in Delhi. I was told that the 'Loh Purush' was furious, and was adamant that I should be shunted out of the Allahabad High Court and dumped in Sikkim or some other remote place. But then the Prime Minister Vajpayee came to my rescue. He said that though one may disagree with a Court verdict, one has to respect the independence of the judiciary.
Atalji had an astrologer in Allahabad, whose surname was also Vajpayee, and who was known to me. Atalji telephoned the astrologer and enquired about my reputation. The astrologer spoke in my favour, and this further prevailed on Atalji's mind, and he thereafter took no action in the matter.
Consequently I remained in Allahabad.
This story was told to me by the astrologer, who died some years thereafter.
With courtesy FB post of Justice Markandey Katju