According to the Indian constitution, India is a “Secular State”. This means that the State observes an attitude of neutrality and impartiality towards all religions.
This implies that the State is not bothered about the relation between its citizen and God because it is a matter of individual conscience.
According to Indian secularism, the states treat all the religions and religious groups equally. In this way it is different from the western secularism, according to which, State will have no interference in the matters of the Church and vice-versa.
Hence, the attitude of impartiality towards all religions is secured by the Constitution through Article 25 to Article 28. It shows the progressive attitude of the makers of the Constitution.
According to the Article 25, the citizens of Indian has the Freedom of conscience and the Right to profess, practice and propagate religion:
- Every person is equally entitled to freedom of conscience and right to profess, practice and propagate any religion. This act is subjected to:
- Restrictions imposed by state in the interest of public order, morality and health. For example, the practice of infanticide in name of religion is prohibited.
- Restrictions imposed by the State for any economic, political or secular activity that is associated with the religious practice.
- Measures for social reforms.
In order to remove difficulty in the interpretation of this article, Supreme Court in a number of cases made following explanations-
- Secularism in India means that the State is neutral to all the religions.
- Politics and Religion cannot be mixed. An appeal to the electorate on grounds of religion offends secular democracy.
- Secularism is regarded as the basic feature of the Indian Constitution.
- In the name of religion no one is allowed to practice untouchability.
- There can’t be indecent dressing.
- Conversion by allurement or by forceful means are not allowed.
- Wearing of ‘Kirpan’ as a religious symbol is allowed but not any number of Kirpan.
- Cow-slaughtering on the occasion of Bakra-Eid is not an essential practice of Islam, therefore any state law prohibit cow-slaughtering is justified.
- Polygamy is not an essential practice of Hindu religion, therefore it can be regulated.
- Sati and devadasi systems are prohibited.
Propagation and Conversion
In the Stainislaus’s case, Supreme Court laid down the following propositions of law related to the propagation of the religion.
- The right to propagate is given to each member of every religion in the country.
- He also has the right to spread or disseminate the beliefs of his religion but this right does not include the right to convert another. Because right to convert to another religion depends on the conscience of an individual.
- A person can voluntarily adopt another religion.
- But a person cannot be converted to another religion by means of force, fraud, inducement or allurement.
- The State has the right and duty to intervene in such matters if such a conversion is against ‘public order, morality, or health’.
Subjected to public order, morally and health every religion shall have the right –
- To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
- To manage its own affairs in the matter of religious.
- To own and acquire movable and immovable property.
- To administered such property in accordance with law.
The Article 25 and 26 not only provide the freedom of religion but also includes the rituals and observances which are regarded as integral parts of a religion by the followers if its doctrines.
- Each religious organization has complete autonomy in the matter of deciding what are the essential rites and ceremonies according to the tenets of their religion.
- The State cannot interfere in the things that are essential to the religion.
- However, the Court has the right to determine whether a particular rite or observance is regarded as essential by the beliefs of a particular religion.
- The Court also has the right to interfere if any practice offends against public health or morality.
Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion.
According to Article 27: 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 religious denomination.
- Tax can be imposed by law under Article 265 and the Article 27 is exception to this Article.
- Article 27 ensures that the State is neutral in matter of taxation on religious activities.
- Any tax collected for any other purpose can be used to promote any particular religion.
- The Article 27 ensures state neutrality but in no way it is acting as a hurdle for positive contribution. They can promote all religion.
- For example: If State gives subsidy for the Haj, then it should also give the subsidy for the Amarnath yatra as well.
- Temples can collect fees for the services they provide. Only tax is prohibited.
Freedom as to attendance at religious instructions or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
As per Article 28, Educational Institutions are classified into 4 categories:
- Maintained by state (Government educational Institutions)
- Recognized by state (Public/Private school, colleges, etc.)
- Received aid out of state fund (NGO’s run educational institutions)
- Reorganized by state but established under any religious endowment.
In the 1st category of educational institutions, no religious instructions can be given.
In 2nd and 3rd categories, religious instructions may be given, but students can’t be compelled to follow it. A written permission of parents is required, if a student is minor.
In 4th category no restrictions whatsoever, it means religious instructions may be given and students can be compelled to follow it.
Did You Know
- There is no State Religion in India.
- Stainislaus’s Case differentiated between the Propagation and Conversion of the Religion in legal sense.