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Freedom of Religion Under Indian Constitution: Whether Freedom of Religion or Freedom From Religion

There is only one religion, though there hundreds of versions of it. -George Bernard Shaw
Religion is that which grows out of, and gives expression to, experience of the holy in its various aspects. -Rudolph Otto

India has been the birth place of quite number of religions and also it is acknowledged as the country which is the land of spiritual beliefs, culture and philosophical thinking. Perception relating to ‘Religion’ varies person to person; it is entirely a matter of choice and belief. If we pay heed to the Indian scenario, it can be concluded that when it comes to their religion, people in this country have a strong faith and dependence. The reason behind having strong faith may be that they perceive that religion adds meaning and reason to their lives. People who are having strong faith leave no stone unturned in showing their fidelity towards their respective religion.[1]

Freedom of Religion Under Indian Constitution

Various fundamental rights are provided as well as guaranteed by our Indian Constitution under Part III. Amongst them, freedom of religion is also the one provided which is given under Article 25-28 of the Indian Constitution. India, being a secular nation gives every citizen the right to follow the religion he believes in.

What is a Secular State?

A secular state is said to be the one where there is no official religion followed. To understand it more clearly, secularism is defined in the case ofS.R. Bommai v. Union of India[2],where it was held that “Secularism is the basic feature of the Indian Constitution.” Religion is a matter of individual faith and cannot be mixed with secular activities.

Concept of freedom of religion

Every citizen is entitled with this right and liberty to preach, practice and propagate the religion of his choice. An opportunity is also provided by this right to spread it among everyone without any fear of government intervention. But also, it is expected by the state to practice it amicably within the jurisdiction of the country. India is a land of diversity being in terms of race, religion, creed, caste and community. When it comes to exercising one’s religious beliefs, India is neutral, unbiased and impartial. It is ensured by our Indian Constitution that no citizen is deprived of his right to practice and profess his or her religion.[3]

Concept of Secularism under Indian Constitution

The concept of ‘Secularism’ is omnipresent under Indian Constitution. By 42nd amendment, 1976 of the Indian Constitution, the term ‘Secular’ was inserted in our preamble. Regarding secularism, there were direct provisions but their languages were res ipsa loquitor. When comes to Secularism, our Constitution has high regard and utmost importance is given to this concept. Secularism is often seen as high regard and enjoys dignified recognition in the eyes of law. According to the Constitution, the allocation of this right is to provide an occasion to every person to declare in open and that too without any hesitation the religion he believes or he wants to profess[4]. There are plethora of judgments which specifically deals with secularism like in the case of S.R.Bommai and the case of Keshvananda Bharti v. Union of India[5],where it was held that secularism is the basic feature of the Indian Constitution and no provision of legislation can take away or abridge this right.

Constitutional Provisions

Articles 25-28 of the Indian Constitution guarantee the right to freedom of religion to all citizens who all are residing within the territory of India.
1.Freedom of conscience and free profession of religion.( Article 25)
2.Freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 26)
3.Freedom from payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion( Article 27)
4.Freedom to attend religious instructions ( Article 28)

·In the case of Mohd . Hanif Quareshi v State of Bihar[6],wherein it was claimed by the petitioner that the sacrifice of the cows during Bakr- id was an essential part of hi religion but this argument was rejected by the courtas the sacrifice of cow on the Bakri-Id day was not an essential part of the Mohammedan religion and hence could be prohibited by State under clause (2) (a) of Article 25.

·In the case of L. T .Swumiar v Commr. H.R.F . Madras[7],wherein it was held that even if a tax is imposed on persons belonging to a particular religion, in order to meet the expenses of that particular religion, such tax is void.

·In the case of RobasaKhanum vs. Khodabad Irani[8], it was held that the conduct of a spouse who converts to Islam has to be judged on the basis of the rules of justice equity and good conscience.

·In the case of Sarla Mudgal V. Union of India[9], it was held that conversion to any other religion by either one or both the spouses is not at all a ground to have the marriage dissolved.

Article 25

Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion
(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law
(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.[10]

Article 26

Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right
(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
(d) to administer such property in accordance with law.[11]

Article 27

Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination.[12]

Article 28

Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions
(1) No religion instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds
(2) Nothing in clause ( 1 ) shall apply to an educational institution which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution
(3) No person attending any educational institution recognized by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto Cultural and Educational Rights.[13]

Section 494 of Indian Penal Codea

Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife:-
Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 17 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Punishment of bigamy:-
Any marriage between two Hindus solemnized after the commencement of this Act is void if at the date of such marriage either party had a husband or wife living; and the provisions of sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), shall apply accordingly.[14]

In the human’s lives, religion plays a vital role. An integral part is played by it to influence the minds of people. Especially in the Indian society, religion plays an indispensable role in governing the conduct and the behaviour of the people. When it comes to the religion, Indians are extremely possessive and if anyone tries to hinder in that, they become alert. It is pivotal to maintain some decorum while exercising this right in order to avoid any kind of future jeopardy.

It Is Clear From The Above said Discussions That “The Constitution Provides Freedom of Religion Not Freedom From Religion.”

[2] AIR 1994 SC 1918.
[3] Supranote 1.
[4] Ibid.
[5] (1973) 4 SCC 225.
[6] AIR 1958 SC 731.
[7] AIR 1952 Mad. 613.
[8] AIR 1947 Bom 272.
[9] AIR 1995 SC 1531.
[14] Supranote 4.

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