SECULARISM IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION :                 

The word secular was first coined by George Jacob Holyoake in his book “ The principles of secularism ”. According to him secularism is not against any religion, but it is one independent of it. There are many definitions for secularism like according to oxford dictionary secularism refers to “ ​the belief that religion should not be involved in the organization of society, education, etc ”.  Though the word secular is included in the preamble of the constitution during the reign of Indira Gandhi, it has its roots in Ashoka period only. Ellora caves are one of the examples of secularism in India. The first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and chairman of the drafting committee Dr. BR Ambedhkar were against the idea of including the word secular. For Jawaharlal Nehru  secular state is an important mark of modernity.  Article 25 to 28 of Indian Constitution deals with religion, they provide freedom of religion.

Article 25 of Indian Constitution states “ all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health ..”. The Supreme Court of India in Keshavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala held that secularism as  part of  the basic structure of the Constitution.

WHAT IS SECULARISM?

Secularism mainly deals with the religion. Secularism means that State shall not practice or promote any religion. It shall be neutral in the matter of religion. An individual can practice any religion . As mentioned earlier the word ‘secular’ has been added to the preamble of Indian Constitution through 42nd Constitutional amendment. In SR Bommai vs Union of India, the court has said that “secular not only means that the State shall not have any religion but also it will be neutral between the religions ”. Members of constituent assembly debated on the inclusion of the word secular in Preamble of Indian Constitution. There was a discussion on October 17, 1949 on the word secular. After many debates in which constituent assembly members addressed all the possible problems in including the word secular in the Preamble of Indian Constitution the word secular finally included in the Preamble through 42nd constitutional amendment along with the word socialist. The Supreme Court in Sardar Syenda Taher Saifuddin Saheb vs State of Bombay,  expressed its views on secular nature of the constitution and held that “ Article 25 and Article 26 embody the principle of religious feature of Indian civilization from the start of history.”

                                            ARTICLE 25 TO ARTICLE 28

ARTICLE 25 :

 Article 25 of Constitution of India guarantees “ freedom of conscience and free profession , practice and propagation of religion”. And these freedoms are subject to public order , health and morality. Although these freedoms are guaranteed to every citizen , the article also provides a provision that State can make laws to restrict and regulate secular activities that are associated with religion practice.  The same has been held  in Ratilal Panachand Gandhi vs State of Bombay by the Court. In Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri management committee vs Chinatmani Khuntia, the Court has said that maintenance of discipline and order inside the temple can be taken care by State and this will not violate Article 25 of  Indian Constitution. Thus even though India is a secular country and guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens which also includes non citizens, the State can take necessary actions against them. In Quareshi Cow Slaughter case , the Court held that banning of cow slaughter by the state didn’t violate any religious rights of the Muslim community people.

ARTICLE 26 :

Article 26 deals with freedom to manage religious affairs. According to Article 26 every religious denomination will have the following rights :

  1. “ To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
  2. To manage its own affairs in matters of religion,
  3. To owe and acquire movable and immovable property, and
  4. To administer such property in accordance with law.”

However these rights are also subject to public order, health and morality.  In TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka the Court held that be it a minority religious community or majority religious community they have right to establish and maintain educational institutions as it is guaranteed by Article 26. Although section 2(b) of article 26 guarantees the institution the right to manage its own matters but the State can interfere in secular activities of the religion. Although State can control the administration of any religious denomination it cannot completely control the administration. The administration of the religious denomination will remain with it only , it may be regulated by the law.

ARTICLE 27 :

Article 27 deals with freedom of payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion . According to this article “ there can be no taxes, the proceeds of which are directly used for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. Article 27 also prohibits the use of public funds for promotion of any religion or for any religious denomination.  But government can reconstruct the religious or educational institutions which got damaged due to the communal riots. In PM Bhargava vs University Grants Commission , UGC introduced a new course called Jyotish Vigyan . The court in this case held that introducing that course didn’t mean to teach religion by the UGC. In SR Bommai and Others vs Union of India and Others, the Court held that Secularism is one of the basic features of Constitution. And it also said that secularism is a positive concept.

ARTICLE 28 :

Article 28 of Indian Constitution deals with “ freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions ”. According to this article there shall be no religious instruction in the State run educational institutions. According to clause three of this article if a person is participating in an educational institution which is recognized by the State or aided by the State is not required to participate in any religious worship conducted by that institution. Article 28 only deals with educational institutions which are recognized or added by the State.

                                    STAND OF SECULARISM IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA

As mentioned earlier, Indian secularism doesn’t support any religion but respects every religion. Although State has no religion, importance of secularism is changing in changing world. One such example is Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) . Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) has brought chaos in the country as it includes only people from six religions and restricts people from other religions. According to Indian secularism it shall not support any religion but due to the restrictions on certain religions it brought internal conflicts all over the nation as Secularism has been neglected. At present secularism is in crisis due to many issues. Secularism will hold its meaning when society recognizes an individual by the identity not by caste or community. Now many politicians are using religion as a tool to secure the votes of the people. This is known as party- political secularism. One such incident in Indian History is Ayodhya temple issue. It is a dispute between Hindus and Muslims. Recently judgement was passed by the court for this issue and it said that the land belongs to Hindu community people and it again challenged Indian secularism. Party -political secularism is suppressing constitutional secularism as constitutional secularism provides freedom of religion and respects every religion but where as party- political secularism is manipulating the individual to believe in community and religion. Indian constitutional secularism doesn’t support or promote any one religion and it gives right to the individual to practice any religion but the individual seeks to identify himself or herself based on religion and began to think every issue of the society from the point of religion and therefore results in the conflict with the members of other religions.

REFERENCES:

  1. Tony Meacham, Constitutional secularism: then, now and the future, 23, Coventry Law Journal, 1, (2019)
  2. Bhavya Gupta & Arush Agarwal, Secularism as an Ideology: A Global and Indian Perspective, Social Science Research Network,( 2018 )
  3. Rohit Sharma , The Study of Secularism in India: With regard to the Constitution, Constitutionalism in India and Society, Social Science Research Network, ( 2020 )
  4. Adrija Roychowdhury Secularism: Why Nehru dropped and Indira inserted the S-word in the Constitution, The Indian Express, December, 27, 2017( 3:16:47), https://indianexpress.com
  5. Shefali Jha, Secularism in Constituent Assembly Debates, 1946-1950,Vol 37, Economic and Political Weekly, 3175 ( 2002 )
  6. Rajeev Bhargava, The future of Indian secularism, The Hindu, August 12, 2020.
  7. Gerard Phillips, Introduction to secularism, National secular society, 2011.
  8. Nitya Bansal, Right to freedom of religion, https://www.legalbites.in/right

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