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Faith, Worship and Law

Written by Anirudh Agrawal [i] and Aditya Rai [ii]

[i] [ii] Second year students, Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur

Source: Pew Research Center

Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.


“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.”

- Ronald Reagan

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second President of the United States of America, argued eloquently for each person's right to worship God in his or her own way, regardless of place. Roosevelt advocated secularism, religious tolerance, and religious diversity as a counterbalance to religious fundamentalism and communalism in his 1941 State of the Union speech. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise..." states unequivocally the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which was ratified in 1791. To put it another way, it calls for the construction of a wall between the Church and the State. Religions exist, their adherents continue to believe in and practise the religious values enshrined in their holy books, and no foreign body, including the state, has the authority to interfere on a regular basis in the lawful and legitimate religious affairs of societies.

The Situation in India

The Religious scenario in India is seen through the lenses of anxiety, limitations, and incorrect assumptions. India is a country that emerged from ethnic strife, and its people have been murdered in the most heinous and inhumane ways possible.

India, which is known for being a multi-religious, multilingual, multiethnic, and multicultural society, has experienced multiple communal riots since independence.

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, which followed Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi's assassination, the 1989 riots in Bhagalpur (a district in Bihar), and the Gujarat riots of 2002 exemplified ethnic hatred in India's history. Approximately 5,700 innocent people died as a result of the unrest.[1] Right-wing Hindu hardliners, Islamic fundamentalists, and Sikh separatists have all had considerable success in transforming the country's communal environment.

The rule of law and the interpretation of the law

The infamous Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute[2] in India added a new dimension to socio-religious debates when a five-judge Supreme Court bench ruled that a mosque is not a "essential part of the practise of Islam" and that namaz can be performed anywhere, and thus that "the central government's acquisition of 67.703 acres of land in and around Babri Masjid is not prohibited by the Constitution." The Hon'ble Allahabad High Court referred to this judgement during a subsequent hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case in 2010, allocating one-third of the land to Hindus, one-third to Muslims, and one-third to Lord Ram, the deity. Needless to say, for the Supreme Court, this case has only been about land and has never been seen through a religious prism. Justice Indu Malhotra, the sole woman and dissenting judge in the 4:1 decision Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors.[3] (originally S. Mahendran v. Secretary, Travancore Devaswom Board, Thiruvananthapuram[4]), sided with the Sabarimala Temple's male seers' demand that women not be admitted to the temple. "Enabling PILs opposing religious practises adhered to by any association, sect, or denomination could do considerable harm to the county's constitutional and secular structure in a pluralistic society made up of people of various religions, values, and traditions," she said. Article 25 (religious liberty) guarantees that everyone has the same right to freely practise their religion. Article 25 ensures fair rights for all people, regardless of their religious beliefs and practises. “Religious freedom must be seen through the eyes of fellow believers.” This disagreement reintroduced a new dimension to the debate over religious freedom vs. gender equality.

By guaranteeing the people of India the universal right to independence, the Indian constitution protects them from communalism.

The constitution's framers worked hard to establish a model of secular democracy that protects all religions equally (Sarva Dharma Samabhava) while gradually improving human dignity. In India, secularism is described as the complete separation of state and religion, as well as the complete freedom of all religious adherents, including atheists and agnostics, to practise their faiths.

In India, all religions are said to be treated equally, with no help or distinction. The notion of India as a secular state was not expressly supported by the constitution's framers. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 amended India's constitution's preamble to include the word "secular."[5] Article 25 of the Indian constitution guarantees each citizen the right to freedom of conscience and right to free practise, propagation, and profession of religion, subject to public order, morality, and health, among other things.[6] The Supreme Court considered whether the constitutional freedom to practise and spread faith necessitates the right to convert in Rev Stanislaus v. Madhya Pradesh.[7] Bribery, deception, or allurement is all forbidden by the court. "Transmit or propagate one's religion by an exposition of its tenets," rather than "convert another person to one's religion," was the court's final interpretation of "promote." Since doing so, rather than spreading or endorsing the tenets of one's religion, violates the 'freedom of conscience' granted to all people of the country, there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one's own faith.”

Similarly, Article 26[8] aims to give Indians 'complete freedom of religion,' enabling them to (a) create and maintain religious and charitable institutions; (b) manage their own religious affairs; (c) own and receive movable and immovable property; and (d) administer such property according to the law. Since the definition of "religion" was never expressly specified in the Indian constitution, the Supreme Court of India has used its discretion in defining it. "A religion may prescribe rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship that are considered central to religion, and these forms a part of religion," the Supreme Court ruled in Sri Lakshmindra theertha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt and others v. the Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras and others.[9]


We must acknowledge that faith is nothing more than a collection of beliefs or doctrines. Religion cannot, without a doubt, establish laws, procedures, or standards of conduct; it can only provide certain guidelines for culture and practises. "Religion must first and foremost be a question of principles," Dr. B.R. Ambedkar correctly said when asked about the personal laws in India and their relationship to religion. It can't just be a matter of following the rules. Since it eliminates the duty that is inherent in a true religious act, a religion no longer counts as a religion when it becomes law.”

His argument can be interpreted as limiting the definition of religion to values and practices that are necessarily religious in a specific religion and must be subject to judicial review. "The Constitution provides for not only worshipping Gods, but also for changing Gods," says Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and founder of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh. Human rights violations and religious outbursts must never be tolerated and must be dismissed by all Indians. This is perhaps the most magnificent feature of our Constitution.


[1] Ashutosh Varshney and Joshua Gubler, THE STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN COMMUNAL VIOLENCE, India- politics and governnrent. I. Kohli, Atul. IL Singh, Prema, 1979- JQ23 1 .rì.68s 201 2 (2013)

[2] Dr. M. Ismail Faruqui Etc, Mohd. … v. Union of India, (1994) 6 SCC 360 (India).

[3] In Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. The state of Kerala and ors., 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1690 (India).

[4] S. Mahendran v. Secretary, Travancore Devaswom Board, Thiruvananthapuram, AIR 1993 Ker 42 (India).

[5] Pmbl. Indian Constitution

[6] INDIA CONST. art.25.

[7] Rev Stanislaus v. Madhya Pradesh, 1977 SCR (2) 611 (India).

[8] INDIA CONST. art.26.

[9] Sri Lakshmindra theertha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt and anr. v. the Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras and ors, 1954 AIR 282 (India).

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