There is an ongoing case against Yunus Khan for hosting a death feast in 2005

The recently formed Cabinet of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has not two, but three “tainted” Ministers, it has come to light.

While newly-appointed Rural Development Minister Gulab Chand Kataria and Health Minister Rajendra Rathore are embroiled in separate fake encounter cases, Deedwana MLA Yunus Khan, the only Muslim Minister in the Cabinet, is facing legal trouble in an older case of a less serious nature.

Yunus Khan, the newly-appointed Public Works Department Minister, is accused of hosting a Chehullum ki Fatiha (death feast, similar to Mrityu Bhoj among Hindus) on the 40th day of the demise of his father in 2005. The feast was organised at Mr. Khan’s ancestral home in Sikar’s Ganedi village on 26th May 2005 when he was Transport Minister in the first Raje-government.

Death feast is prohibited by the Rajasthan Mrityu Bhoj Prevention Act, 1960.

After seeing advertisements in prominent local dailies, political activist Kailash Meena had complained to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Laxmangarh, who ignored it. Mr. Meena then went to the venue in Ganeri and filmed the feast.

In 2008, on a petition jointly filed by Mr. Meena and the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), a court in Sikar issued summons to Mr. Khan. Also summoned were the then Waqf Board chairman Shukat Ansari, MLA Bhanwarlal Rajpurohit, the then Jhunjhunu District Collector Alok Gupta, then Sikar Collector Ramrakh, SP Laxminarain Meena and Additional SP Sarwar Khan, among others.

In 2005, the incident assumed the character of a political controversy after it was alleged that several senior members of the State Cabinet, including Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Ministers Laxminarain Dave, Ghanshyam Tiwari and Parliamentary Secretary Bhawani Singh Rajawat attended the feast.

“However minor, it is still a violation of the law of the land... a minister is supposed to lead by example, especially with regard to social evils. But this government has inducted three Ministers who are yet to be absolved of their alleged violations of the law,” said Kavita Srivastava, national secretary, PUCL.

In her 2008 order, judicial magistrate Vandana Rathore took cognizance of the violation of section 3, read with section 4 of the RMBP Act 1960. She refused to accept the contention of Mr. Khan’s lawyers that only some beggars were served food after the main event and the Minister were not aware of this.

Mr. Khan appealed against the order in the ACJM court, Sikar, where the matter is now pending.

“The court had taken cognizance and the police had submitted its final report. The matter will be heard at the next hearing. That is all I can say,” Mr. Khan told The-Hindu.

The court also said that while Ms. Raje attended the event, she was not seen joining the feast and was merely there to offer her condolences.