The Constitution of India extends the Right to Freedom of Religion to all the citizens according to Article 25. However, this is not an absolute right, it is subject to restrictions. Article 25(1) states that the right to freedom of religion is subject to public order and morality. It is the duty of the state to maintain peace and order, therefore the state is extended power to regulate religious activities to maintain this order, any act that can be offensive or can hurt the sentiments of a particular group can be restricted by the authorities. Chapter 15 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 295 to 298; deals with religious acts that can tend to breach peace, these acts are considered criminal offences. 

In the case Public Prosecutor v P Ramaswamy, the court applied Section 295(A)under the concept of religious propagation offense. In the case Acharya Jagadishwaranda Avadhuta v Commissioner of Police of Calcutta, the issue was regarding to dance, the Thandava dance which was claimed as an Essential Practice by a religious denomination. This dance was done in public using daggers, and skulls, which might hurt the sentiments of the general public and as a result was banned by the authorities. The court in this case held that this dance was not an essential practice to the religion and also it could cause hurt to public morality. As a result, the ban on the dance was valid.

The judiciary brought in a test to determine whether a practice was essential to a religion or not. This test is known as the ‘Essential Practices Test.’ According to this test, any religious practice would be considered an essential practice, if not following that practice would lead to the crumbling of that particular religion. Dr. B R Ambedkar had said that all essential practices of a particular religion should be recognized and protected. 

This test was used in the case of Mohamed Hanif Qureshi v State of Bihar. In this case, Mohd. Hanif Qureshi wanted to slaughter cow instead of goat for Bakrid.  This was in the state of Bihar where the bovine slaughter was banned. Mohd Hanif Qureshi raised the contention that Islam prescribed for the slaughter of cow or goat. The Court analyzed the religious texts of Islam and came to the conclusion that the slaughter of a cow was not an essential practice, slaughter of goat was also permitted. Also, the slaughter of a cow would hurt the sentiments of the a religious community. Hence, the court held slaughter of cow was not an essential practice in the religion of Isalm and directed Mohd Hanif Qureshi to abstain from it.

Essential practices test was introduced in order to prevent the hurting of religious sentiments. If any non-essential practice hurts the religious sentiment of a particular denomination, this practice could be banned or restricted. It helps maintain an overall harmony. However, a lot of judges criticised this test claiming no institution should be given to much power as to determine if a practice was essential to a religion or not in the backdrop of the Acharya Jagdishwaranda Avadhuta v Commissioner of Police of Calcutta case.

Secularism according to the Indian Constitution refers to separating religion from the state. In India, secularism refers to equal respect for all religions.  It means not to discriminate, but rather treat all religions equally. In order to maintain this, the government has the right to introduce religious reforms, protect minorities, and formulate laws with regard to religious matters. This, however, is done within the judicially and constitutionally prescribed framework. 

The best example for this is the decision of the Supreme Court to ban the bursting of firecrackers during religious festivals. This was done with the intention to protect the environment. In the verdict of the famous S R Bommai v Union of India case, brought secularism under the basic structure of the Constitution and held that secularism helped demarcate between religion and politics.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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