NEW DELHI—Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri, the former general secretary of BJP Mahila Morcha and with records of hate speech against minorities, is now an additional judge of the Madras High Court. If she, 49, is confirmed as a judge, she has a career of 13 years in delivering justice, even an elevation to the Supreme Court. She is among the 17 lawyers listed by the three-judge Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.
She took oath precisely when a plea against her appointment as a judge was being heard in the top court on February 7. Shortly after she completed her oath, the supreme court dismissed the plea announcing that detailed reasons would follow.
The bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai said, “We are not entertaining the writ petition.”
The plea represented by lawyers Anna Mathew, Sudha Ramalingam and D Nagasaila said, “The petitioners are seeking appropriate interim orders injuncting the 4th Respondent (Gowri) from taking the oath of office as a judge of the High Court, in view of the ‘grave threat’ to the independence of the judiciary.”
The petitioners’ opposition to the Collegium’s recommendation to elevate advocate Gowri to the judgeship was echoed in their letter to President Droupadi Murmu too. Lawyers claimed advocate Gowri had given hate speeches against religious minorities.
According to the legal website Live Law, three reasons were indicated for this that it could not be presumed that the Collegium was not aware of Gowri’s political backgrounds or her controversial statements; (ii) there was no question of ‘eligibility’ and it could not go into the question of “suitability” at this stage; (iii) Gowri is only being appointed as an Additional Judge and there are instances where persons have not been confirmed.
Though she pledged to work towards the liberation of marginalized communities and to promote unity in India, her past hate speeches must haunt her.
Her unverified and now deleted Twitter handle, described as Chowkidar Victoria Gowri, is related to the BJP’s Main Bhi Chowkidar campaign to counter Rahul Gandhi’s Chowkidar Hi Chor hai, referring to the Rafale deal.
Gowri hails from Thakalay near Kanyakumari. Born on May 21, 1973, she started her career as a lawyer in 1995 after graduating from Madurai Law College.
Gowri has been known to be associated with the BJP since 2010. She campaigned for the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 general election in Tamilnadu. Her association with the BJP helped her in being appointed as the union government’s senior standing counsel at the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench in 2015. Five years later, in 2020, she was promoted to the assistant solicitor general of India for the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
According to Article14.com, she is considered close to the additional solicitor general of India, K M Nataraj, who has been affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Her video messages and write-ups in organs like the RSS mouthpiece Organiser are being put as her hate speeches targeting the Muslim and Christian communities.
In a video shot in 2018, she can be heard saying, “As far as India is concerned, I would like to say Christian groups are more dangerous than Islamic groups. Both are equally dangerous in the context of conversion, especially Love Jihad.”
In a series of tweets, investigative journalist Saurav Das quoted her sharing her views on so-called love jihad: “I don’t mind a Hindu girl marrying a Muslim boy… But if I am not able to find my girl with him as his wife, and if I find my girl in the Syrian terrorist camp, I have objection (sic), and that is what I define as Love Jihad.”
He writes that her recommendation by the Collegium comes at a time when the tension between the Collegium and government was at an all-time high.
Many argue that the political leaning of the incumbent judges is not new. But, this open hate speech is unprecedented and cannot be buried under ‘detailed reasons’ for long if the country is to thrive on social harmony.
Saurav questions like many that how did a person openly biased against India’s minorities receive a favourable recommendation from the Collegium? It is also puzzling for a collegium that Chief Justice Chandrachud heads.
This question will haunt the Indian judiciary till this elevation of an accused of hate speech is scrutinized in the spirit of the law.