Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion: A Socio-Legal Study

    Religion is a set of beliefs, moral values, and faith. It has the oldest basic socio-cultural characteristics associated with mankind and the civilizations that they have created over thousands of years of recorded history. Religion is viewed differently by different communities and individuals. For some, religion has evolved into a set of established beliefs, rituals, and traditional practices, as well as the worship of a single Supreme being or deity, which could be their own caste/tribe deity or village deity. Other people, on the other hand, worship a variety of gods and goddesses. Others, meanwhile, practice and perceive religion in their own unique ways, which are either codified in various scriptures or inherited and passed down from generation to generation. Only a small percentage of people claim to be atheists. Regardless of differences in how they express their faith, people generally believe in one or more divine powers that created the universe and are responsible for all human beings.

    Religion is to society what blood is to a person’s body. Every religion teaches us to be honest and truthful. No society can exist without religion, just as no one can survive without blood. “If life were a pie, religion would not be one of the pieces alongside politicos, economics, social structure, education, and law,” it is stated in India. Religion, on the other hand, is the fruit that can be found in every slice of the Pie.

    The religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are frequently abused or misused. We have the right to freedom of conscience, but we use it to persuade others to convert to our religions through force, deception, or allurement. We have the religious right to perform Azan in mosques and Aarti in temples, but when we use loudspeakers to do so, we disturb those who do not want to listen. Politicians’ use of religious fervour to boost their vote bank jeopardizes society’s stability. The religious minority and majority issue causes division among the people and distorts the country’s unity and integrity, which is the Constitution’s ethos.

    Because the right to freedom of religion is a Fundamental Right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, it has far-reaching socio-legal implications. As a result, it has taken on a significant role in the social life of India and the subcontinent, as well as the rest of the world. Because it has such a direct impact on society and the legal system, extreme caution and caution must be exercised when using it.

    Fundamental rights are guaranteed by the fact that we are all human beings. Because it has “foundational” value, a right becomes a fundamental right. It is a check on the state’s power. It is not to be regarded as a gift from the state to its citizens, but as something that individuals possess independently because they are members of the human race. By elevating fundamental rights to a high pedestal and declaring them foundational, the public’s understanding of them was boosted.’

    Historical Development of Religious Rights and Evolution of Fundamental Rights

    Development of Religious Rights

    In terms of religious diversity, there is hardly a country in the modern world that can compete with India. India is known for its religious diversity as well as religious tolerance. Religions of the East and the West, ancient and modern, religions with millions of adherents as well as religions with a small number of adherents — all of these have found a happy home in India and have coexisted in relative peace and harmony. They have had a long-standing influence on Indian society, economy, politics, and administration.

    In 1947, India gained independence after two centuries of foreign dominance. As a result, she was able to form a government of her own choosing. The Constituent Assembly of India, which included some of the most eminent men of their time, was entrusted with this difficult task. The Assembly reflected not only the ideals and aspirations of the Indian people at the time, but also their moods and sentiments, through them. They desired to transform India into a democracy based on the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. They also wanted India to become a secular democracy. This was necessary due to India’s religious diversity, which was a defining feature.

    As a result, the framers of the Constitution considered appropriate and adequate safeguards for religious minorities’ interests in order to instill confidence and security in them. The concept of guaranteed fundamental rights was the hook that drew them in for this mission. Religious speech and expression, as well as the right to form religious associations and unions, are guaranteed by the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to form associations and unions. However, in its attempt to instill complete confidence in religious minorities, the Constituent Assembly was not satisfied with such provisions alone. It went even further, adopting a separate set of special provisions dedicated solely to the right to religious liberty. This was clear from statements made by their representatives both inside and outside the Constituent Assembly. These provisions[1] were the result of a compromise reached with minorities in the Constituent Assembly’s Minorities Committee, which was almost unanimously approved. This level of agreement created an atmosphere of overall harmony and trust among all parties involved. Furthermore, these provisions detailed one of the Constitution’s major goals, as stated in the Preamble: “to secure to all its citizens……liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship.”

    It (the secular state) does not imply that we will disregard the religious sentiments of the people. A secular state simply means that this Parliament does not have the authority to impose any particular religion on the rest of the population.

    Secularism, as defined by the Indian Constitution, has the following characteristics: (1) The state will not identify with any religion or be influenced by it. (2) While the State guarantees everyone the right to practice whatever religion they choose (including the right to be an agnostic or atheist), it does not give any religion preferential treatment. (3) The State will not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion or faith. (4) Every citizen will have the same right to enter any office under the State as his fellow citizens, subject to any general conditions.

    The Constitution does not begin with the assumption that religion can be freely practiced or that religious beliefs are entitled to full protection. Unlike many other Articles of the Constitution, Article 25 establishes a broad principle of religious freedom that is subject to numerous qualifications and limitations.

    The freedom of conscience, freedom to profess, freedom to practice, and freedom to propagate religion are all guaranteed by the constitution. The Constitution limits each of these, but it is argued that the Supreme Court of India has further limited religious freedom by stating that the Constitution protects only the essential and integral parts of religious freedom.

    The main goal of the constitutional provisions on religious freedom is to prevent the state from discriminating against or preferring one religion over another, rather than completely prohibiting it from interfering with religious practices.

    Evolutions of Fundamental Rights

    The goal of enshrining certain basic and fundamental rights is to keep them out of the hands of fleeting political majorities. As a result, it has become necessary to enshrine these rights in such a way that they cannot be violated, tampered with, or interfered with by an oppressive government. With this goal in mind, some written constitutions guarantee citizens a limited set of rights and prohibit government agencies from interfering with them. In that case, rather than ordinary legislation, only an elaborate and form-all process of institutional amendment can limit or take away a guaranteed right. These are referred to as “fundamental rights.”

    Fundamental rights are divided into three categories in the Indian Constitution: (1) those that can be claimed and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of nationality; (2) those that can be claimed and enjoyed only by Indian citizens; and (3) those that can be claimed and enjoyed not by individual citizens as such, but by a group of individual citizens. The goal of enshrining fundamental rights in the Constitution is to prove that the system of government recognized by it embodies the concept of a “limited government,” that is, a government of laws rather than of men. The purpose of a Bill of Rights was to remove certain subjects from the whims of political debate, to place them far beyond the reach of majorities, and to establish them as constitutional rules to be applied by the judicial system[2]. The right to life, liberty, and property, as well as the rights to free speech, a free press, religious freedom, and other fundamental human rights, may not be put to a vote; they are contingent upon the outcome with no elections.’

    https://legalreadings.com/notice-of-marriage-of-the-married-couple-under-special-marriage-act/

    Articles 14, 15, and 16 of Part III of the Indian Constitution deal with the right to equality. Within the territory of India, Article 14 guarantees equality before the law or equal protection under the law, and this fundamental right can be claimed by anyone, including non-citizens. Article 15 discusses how the doctrine of equality before the law is applied in a specific situation. It states that no citizen may be discriminated against solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, or any combination of these factors. It also states that no citizen can be forced to accept a disability, liability, restriction, or condition based on any of the aforementioned grounds. Article 15’s clauses (3) and (4) provide for exceptions to the equality doctrine.

    Article 16 deals with a different set of situations in which the right to equality is invoked. In matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State, it stipulates that all citizens shall have equal opportunity.

    Unlike Article 14, which guarantees equality before the law to all people, including aliens, Articles 15 and 16 apply only to citizens, despite their otherwise broad scope. One distinction between Articles 14 and 15 is this.

    Article 19(1) recognizes seven rights to freedom: (a) freedom of speech and expression; (b) freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms; (c) freedom to form associations or unions; (d) freedom to move freely throughout India; (e) freedom to reside and settle in any part of India; (f) freedom to acquire, hold, and dispose of property; and (g) freedom to practice any profession.

    The court must make an assessment that is not always easy to make when deciding whether or not a restriction or regulation of fundamental rights is reasonable[3].

    Another important aspect of the right to freedom is the right to be free from criminal prosecution. In this regard, the Indian Constitution contains provisions to ensure freedom.[4]

    The most distinguishing feature of Indian democracy is its faith in secularism, which includes the right to freedom of religion. This right is addressed in Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Article 25 guarantees religious freedom, including the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion. However, this liberty is expressly limited by public order, morality, and health, as well as the other provisions of Part III. This freedom does not preclude the State from enacting legislation aimed at (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political, or other secular activity that may be associated with religious practice; and (b) providing for social welfare and reform, including the opening of Hindu religious institutions of a public nature to all classes and sections of society.

    Every religious denomination, or any segment thereof, is guaranteed the freedom to manage its religious affairs under Article 26. This freedom includes the ability to (a) establish and maintain religious and charitable institutions; (b) manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) administer such property according to law. This freedom is subject to public order, morality, and health, but not to the other provisions of Part III, unlike the freedom guaranteed by Article 25. The right to freedom of religion enshrined in these two Articles must be read in conjunction with Article 14, as well as Articles 15 and 16, which prohibit discrimination based on religion.

    Minorities[5] have the right to establish and run educational institutions of their choosing, and each minority has a constitutional guarantee to preserve and sustain its own language, script, or culture.

    The constitution is not a flimsy legal document that enshrines a set of legal rules for the time being. It establishes principles for a finite future that are intended to last for eons and, as a result, to be adapted to various human crises. As a result, rather than taking a strict literal approach to interpretation, a purposeful approach should be taken. A constitutional provision must be drafted not in a narrow and restrictive sense, but in a broad and liberal sense in order to anticipate and account for changing conditions and purposes, ensuring that the provision does not become fossilized and remains adaptable to new problems and challenges. This principle of interpretation is especially important when it comes to interpreting fundamental rights.

    Right to Religion as Fundamental Right under Constitution Of India

    “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, practice, and propagate religion,” according to Article 25(1) of the Constitution, which prioritizes the individual over religion.

    Religious freedom is granted subject not only to public order, morality, and health, but also to the other provisions of the part of the Constitution that guarantees fundamental rights, including individual liberty rights. Furthermore, Article 25 ensures that everyone has equal access to religious freedom and embeds the equality and non-discrimination doctrine adopted in articles 14 to 16. This implies that you value other people’s opinions. Article 27 expressly forbids the state from levying taxes to support any particular religion. The prohibition of discrimination in various articles of the Constitution implies that whatever assistance or encouragement the government provides should benefit all religious groups. Similarly, when it comes to restricting the free exercise of religion, the government must act impartially. It is possible that laws will fall short of the ideal of equality, but there is no doubt that the Constitution’s underlying goal is to achieve objectivity as soon as possible.

    Religious freedom does not emerge overnight, but rather over time. It has evolved since the dawn of time. Religion is the fundamental foundation for a society’s development and survival. It is a stabilizing force that prevents the social fabric from being distorted. The Fundamental Rights have evolved over time to serve as a protective umbrella for religious and other human rights. After much debate, the founding fathers of the Constitution enshrined religious freedom as a Fundamental Right in Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution.

    Concept of Religion in Secular Country

    The term “religion” is a fluid term. It varies depending on the season and the country. The term “religion,” on the other hand, is not defined in the Indian Constitution or any other law.

    Concept

    The term “religion” refers to institutionalized dispositions and actions related to the sacred, which is perceived to be incommensurately more profound, powerful, and significant than the everyday or mundane.

    Religion (Religio) is a virtue based on God’s reverence and the expectation of future rewards and punishments; it is a system of Divine faith and worship that differs from others (johns). Religion is the habit of reverence for the divine nature, through which we are enabled and inclined to serve and worship him in the manner that we deem most acceptable to him.

    The term “religion” is commonly understood in all countries to refer to a set of beliefs and practices based on the belief in the existence of a single God, the creator and ruler, to whom his creatures owe obedience and love.

    Religion is morality with a future state of rewards and punishments as a sanction.

    These terms were also considered by the courts in the case of Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri Lakhmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt, in which the following legal proposition was established:

    1. Religion is defined as “a set of beliefs or doctrines that adherents of that religion regard as conducive to their spiritual well-being.”
    2. A religion is more than a set of beliefs, doctrines, or opinions. Acts are also an outward manifestation of it.
    3. Religion doesn’t have to be theistic.

    Essentials of Religion

    What constitutes an essential part of a religion is determined primarily by reference to that religion’s doctrine, and the court cannot rule that a belief or practice is not part of religion.[6]

    There is no universal agreement on what constitutes religion. Religion is derived from the Latin words “re” which means “back” and “ligare” which means “to bind.” Religion, according to Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary, is a belief that connects man’s spiritual nature to a higher being, involving a sense of dependence and responsibility, as well as the feelings and practices that naturally flow from such a belief.

    Major Religions

      1. Hinduism
      2. Buddhism
      3. Sikhism
      4. Christianity
      5. Islam
      6. Judaism

    Restrictions of Religious Rights

    Articles 25(1), which restricts religious freedom, is further subjected to the exceptions provided by Clause 2 of the same article, sub-clauses (a) and (b).

    Conclusion

    In terms of religious diversity, there is hardly a country in the modern world that can compete with India. Not only is India known for its religious diversity, but also for its religious tolerance. Despite the fact that India is one of the few, if not the only, countries in history to be partitioned on religious grounds. India is a democracy founded on the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.

    According to the 2001 Census of India, 828 million (80.5 percent) of India’s 1028 million people identified as Hindus, followed by 138 million (13.4 percent) Muslims, and 24 million (2.3 percent) Christians. Sikhs account for 19 million (1.9%) of the population, Buddhists for 8 million (0.8%), and Jains for 4.2 million (0.4%).

    The Indian Constitution prohibits the government from promoting any particular religion. It allows the government to make religious grants without discriminating between people of different faiths. The Supreme Court of India declared secularism to be a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution in the case of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India.

    Religion is the foundation of society. It has a huge influence on humanity.

    REFERENCES

    [1] The Constitution of India, 1950, art. 25, 26, 27, 28.

    [2]  Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).

    [3]  State of Madras v. V.G, 1952 AIR 196.

    [4]  The Constitution of India, 1950, art. 20, 21, 22.

    [5] The Constitution of India, 1950, art. 29, 30.

    [6] Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt v. Commr., H.R.E, AIR 1952 Mad 613; State of Bombay v. Sa-rdar Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb, AIR 1962 SC 853; State of T.N. v. Seshammal, (1972) 2 SCC 11; State of Bombay v. Ratilal Panachand Gandhi, 1954 AIR 388; Travancore Devaswom Board v. N. Adithyan, Durgah Committee, Ajmer v. Syed Hussain AU, 1961 AIR 1402 .


    BY SHIVAM NARAYAN PANDEY | BENNETT UNIVERSITY

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    ADVERTISE WITH LEGAL READINGS :)
    WEEKLY NEWSLETTEREnter your email address below to subscribe to LEGALREADINGS newsletter.