Ambedkarite lawyers group writes to CJI to declare April 14 a permanent court holiday

Why is the birth anniversary of the Father of the Indian Constitution not a holiday as per the Supreme Court calendar, the letter asks.

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ON April 5, members of the ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Lawyers for Social Justice’ wrote to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud to request for the declaration of Ambedkar Jayanti, that is, the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, which is on April 14, as a court holiday, and to officially include this in the Supreme Court’s calendar henceforth.

In its letter, the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Lawyers for Social Justice, whose members practise at the Supreme Court and formed their collective in 2014, state that Bharat Ratna Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14 is celebrated throughout the country. The letter further states that in 2021, the Union government declared April 14 as a national public holiday, with all states and Union territories celebrating the birth anniversary by organising an assortment of programmes. The letter points out that many district courts and high courts declare April 14 a court holiday.

The group of lawyers, through the letter, raise the concern that while publishing its calendar each year, the Supreme Court fails to include April 14 as a holiday on account of Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. The letter highlights that the calendar for the present year also did not declare it as a holiday. Instead, the letter points out, the Supreme Court declared it a holiday by publishing a notification only a few days before April 14.

On the importance of the holiday, the letter emphasises that Dr Ambedkar, who was the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution and the first Union law minister, is revered as an emancipator of crores of downtrodden and marginalised people in India. It states that hundreds of employees working at the Supreme Court, who belong to marginalised communities, celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14.

The letter reads, “For us, the 14th of April is a celebration day as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who liberated us was born and he is the reason we are in a position to practise at the Supreme Court of India. 14th of April is a day as important as Diwali, Eid or Christmas for us.”

Advocate Pratik Bombarde, a member of the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Lawyers for Social Justice group and one of the signatories of the letter, shared his views with The Leaflet, stating that a group of around 100 lawyers at the Supreme Court, who believe in the ideology of Dr Ambedkar, gather every year on April 13 and give floral tribute to Dr Ambedkar. On April 14, customary celebrations are conducted by them in the form of a festival, including greetings, exchanging sweets, and singing and dancing. Bombarde asserted that if April 14 is not declared a public holiday, Ambedkarite lawyers will not appear before any court on that day.

In addition to his judicial functions, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is also the administrative head of the Supreme Court. Hence, the letter is addressed to the CJI to declare April 14 a public holiday.

According to Bombarde, he has been systematically placing the issue before the judiciary and has reached out to, among others, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, the principal private secretary to the CJI, the secretary general of the Supreme Court, and the senior personal assistant to the CJI. However, no response has been received by him in the form of a notification for a public holiday yet.

On the reasoning for the long pending inclusion of April 14 as a public holiday, Bombarde opined that the Supreme Court has been avoiding the acknowledgement of Dr Ambedkar’s contribution to the country. Two local holidays are currently observed by the Supreme Court on March 31 and April 3, but not Dr Ambedkar Jayanti.

Since Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, is declared a public holiday by the Supreme Court, it can be inferred that the Supreme Court does not declare public holidays solely for religious purposes. He, therefore, questioned why the birth anniversary of the Father of the Indian Constitution could not be declared a public holiday. He stressed that Dr Ambedkar is revered universally, cutting across all castes and religions, as the philosopher of the Constitution.

The Leaflet