Freedom of worship in India is a constitutional right granted by Article 25-28 of the Indian Constitution. Modern India came into being in 1947, and the preamble to the Indian constitution was amended in 1976 to state that India is a secular state. However, in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India , the Supreme Court of India ruled that India had always been a secular state from the time it enacted its constitution, and that what was specifically achieved by this amendment was to state expressly what had been implicitly contained in Articles 25 to 28. India is one of the most diverse nations in terms of faith, the birthplace of four main world religions: Jainism, Hinduism , Buddhism and Sikhism. While Hindus make up nearly 80 per cent of the population, India also has regional religious practises: for example, Jammu and Kashmir have a Muslim majority, Punjab has a Sikh majority, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram have Christian majorities and Indian Himalayan states such as Sikkim and Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and the State of Maharashtra and Darjeeling District of West Bengal have large concentrations of Buddhist population. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution has the term “secular” and Articles 25 to 28 indicate that the State may not discriminate, defend or intervene in the profession of any religion. However, it covers particular sects or communities by adding human freedom as constitutional rights. Article 25 notes that “all people shall have the same right to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and spread religion subject to public order , morality and health.” Moreover, Article 26 specifies that all religions should administer their own affairs in matters of religion. Both such privileges shall be subject to the control of the State.
EXLANATION OF THE LAW
Article 25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
Article 26. Freedom to manage religious affairs.
Article 27. Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion.
Article 28. Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain education institutions.
Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion)
Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate religion to all citizens.
The above-mentioned freedoms are subject to public order, health, and morality.
This article also gives a provision that the State can make laws:
That regulates and restricts any financial, economic, political, or other secular activity associated with any religious practice.
That provides for the social welfare and reform or opening up of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all sections and classes of Hindus. Under this provision, Hindus are construed as including the people professing the Sikh, Jain, or Buddhist religions, and Hindu institutions shall also be construed accordingly.
People of the Sikh faith wearing & carrying the kirpan shall be considered as included in the profession of the Sikh religion.
Khursheed Ahmad Khan v. State of U.P. and Ors
In Khursheed Ahmad Khan v. State of U.P. and Ors, the SC upheld a law that circumscribed the right of Muslim men available under MPL to practice polygamy. In this case, a Muslim man working for the Uttar Pradesh [U.P] state government was dismissed from his job for entering into a polygamous marriage. His action violated service rules requiring government employees to seek prior consent before engaging in polygamy. Instead of deferring to the will of community leaders like the Board, the Supreme Court held that the entitlement available under MPL to take a second wife did not exempt Muslim men from this requirement of prior permission.
Javed and Others v. State of Haryana (2003)
A writ petition was filed by disqualified candidates in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of an election law that disqualified persons having more than two living children after a certain date from holding certain public offices in the Panchayat, a local government system, of the state of Haryana (Sections 175(1)(q) and 177(1) of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994). The objective of these disqualification provisions was to “popularize” the family planning programs of the government. The challenge alleged that these disqualification provisions violated the right to equality before the law guaranteed by the Indian Constitution under Article 14 (as persons with two or less than two children qualified for public offices); the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (as it prevented individuals from exercising liberty in their personal life as it relates to the number of children one chooses to have); and the right to religious freedoms under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution (as the practice of polygamy in Muslims often leads to more than two children).