Freedom of Religion Guaranteed Under Indian Constitution
Rights are claims of an individual over the society, over other human beings, and the Government. Fundamental Rights which are guaranteed in part III of the Indian Constitution play a major role in the development of an individual’s personality. These rights are stated in Article 12 to Article 35 of the Constitution. All the Fundamental Rights can be enforced by the Supreme Court and the High Courts. One of the fundamental rights is the Right to Freedom of Religion. Our Constitution has provided with the concept of a secular state whereby a state cannot have its own religion and it is obliged to treat all the religions equally.
The word secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The term Secular was added by the 42nd Amendment Act,1976 to the Constitution. It means separation of religion from the Government, social, economic, and cultural aspects of life. However, in India, there is equal respect for all religions and faiths.
Freedom of Religion:
Our Constitution also provides freedom of religion to all the people of the country irrespective of caste, race, sex, place of birth, religion, etc. This right is meaningful as it enables people to participate in the Indian democracy freely following their own religious beliefs. The below mentioned are the rights that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution under Article 25 to Article 28.
- Individuals have freedom of conscience and they are free to practice and propagate any religion of their choice.
- All religious denominations or any of their sections are free to manage their religious affairs.
- They are free for the payment of taxes to promote any particular religion.
- They have the freedom to attend religious instructions in certain educational institutions.
A) Article 25: Freedom of Conscience and Free profession, practice, and propagation of Religion.
Article 25 clearly states that all people including citizens and noncitizens can freely profess, practice, and propagate any religion of their choice. When it comes to morality, health, and public order, the State can take appropriate measures in these regards. The State has the authority to take measures regarding welfare and social reforms associated with religious practices. For example, in the cases of ‘triple talaq’ and ‘Sabarimala temple entry’, the State interfered and took appropriate steps required at that time.
Cases associated with this right:
- In the case of Mohammed Hanif Qureshi vs. the State of Bihar, the argument of the petitioner regarding the sacrifice of the cows during Bakri Eid was rejected by the Court as a sacrifice was not a mandatory part of the Mohammedan religion and hence could be prohibited by the State under clause (2)(a) of Article 25.
- In the case of Church of God in India versus K.K.R Majestic Colony Welfare Association (2000)– It was held by the Supreme Court that the loudspeakers that are used in religious activities should not be allowed if they cause disturbance in maintaining the peace.
B) Article 26: Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs.
According to Article 26, a religious denomination or its section has the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes. It also has the right to manage its own religious affairs. It has the right to own movable or immovable property and also to administer such property by the law.
The supreme court held that there are three conditions that need to be satisfied by a religious denomination.
Firstly, there should be a common organization. Secondly, it should be a collection of individuals with common beliefs. Thirdly, it should have a distinctive name.
Cases associated with this right:
- Bramchari Sidheswar Bhai v. State of West Bengal: The Supreme Court held that it cannot be claimed that Rama Krishna Mission is separate from the Hindu religion.
- Acharaj Singh v. State of Bihar: It was held that the ‘Bhog’ offered to the deity is a practice that can be regarded as a part of the religion.
C) Article 27: Freedom from Taxation for Promotion of Religion.
A State cannot use taxes for the promotion of one particular religion over the other. Also, a person cannot be forced to pay any taxes for the promotion of a particular religion.
The case associated with this right:
- In the case of Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras versus Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt; it was held by the Supreme Court that though the contribution levied under the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act, 1951 was tax the object of it was for the proper administration of the religious institution.
D) Article 28: Freedom from Attending Religious Instructions.
If an institution is wholly maintained by the State then no religious instruction is allowed in that institution but it is not the case with an institution that is administered by the State but established by any trust where religious instruction is required.
Therefore, Article 28 distinguishes between four types of educational institutions which are as follows-
- Institutions are solely maintained by the State.
- Institutions that are administered by the State but are established under any trust or endowment.
- Institutions that are recognized by the State.
- Institutions that receive aid from the State.
In (a) religious instruction is prohibited whereas in (b) it is permitted. In (c) and (d) religious instruction is permitted voluntarily. .
Cases associated with this right:
- In DAV College vs State of Punjab 1971; the Court held that Section 4 provides for the academic study of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and this cannot be considered as religious instruction.
- In Aruna Roy versus Union of India 2002; it was held that there is no violation of Article 28 and there can be education for value development based on all religions.
Note: In India, religion plays a very important role in governing the behavior of the people. People are religious to the extent that even a small hindrance in their religion makes them highly alert and possessive about it. As a result, the Constitution of India maintains distance from the religion in such a way that our country does not have any state religion of its own, and also it cannot promote any one particular religion. This is how India is a country with diverse religions can manage itself so far. Though there have been cases where religion became a source of contention between the people. However, these cases were solved and most of the time the people got what they want. Thereby leaving the religion as one of the prominent sanctity of the people.