Article 25 says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. The implications of these are:
- Freedom of conscience: Inner freedom of an individual to mould his relation with God or Creatures in whatever way he desires.
- Right to profess: Declaration of one’s religious beliefs and faith openly and freely.
- Right to practice: Performance of religious worship, rituals, ceremonies and exhibition of beliefs and ideas.
- Right to propagate: Transmission and dissemination of one’s religious beliefs to others or exposition of the tenets of one’s religion. But, it does not include a right to convert another person to one’s own religion. Forcible conversions impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all the persons alike.
From the above, it is clear that Article 25 covers not only religious beliefs (doctrines) but also religious practices (rituals). Moreover, these rights are available to all persons—citizens as well as non-citizens.
However, these rights are subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions relating to fundamental rights. Supreme court with some of its judgement has reiterated the fact that Indian law is above any religious law/practice. Some cases are:
- Shah Bano case in which supreme court approved compensation to Muslim women in case of divorce which was against Muslim personal law.
- Shabnam Hashmi case refers to right guaranteed by Indian law to adopt child with all legal rights.
- SC in Mathura Ahir case reiterated that personal law are not law under article 13 .
- SC ruling against forced implementation of fatwa reiterated this fact.
Also AP shah committee recommended to amend law for property right to Christian women. Also there is provision for Equal distribution of property to girl child in Hinduism.
Constitution aims for uniform civil code which is above all religion personal law and guarantees equal right and equal protection of law irrespective of religion. Such cases strengthen the core of fundamental right which excludes practices contrary to basic natural justice.
Further, the State is permitted to:
- Regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice; and
- Provide for social welfare and reform or throw open Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
Recent Case: Although their personal law permits men to have four wives, the Supreme Court recently ruled that a Muslim’s fundamental right to profess Islam did not include practicing polygamy. SC upheld the UP government’s decision to sack one of its employees on the ground of misconduct for opting for a second marriage during existence of the first marriage without its prior permission.
The fundamental right to religion does not include practices which run counter to public order, health and morality. Elucidate with suitable examples. (150 Words)