ARTICLE 25

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Introduction
  • Article 25 of the Constitution, which is a basic right, ensures that everyone has the freedom to profess, practice, and spread the religion of their choosing. Part III of the Constitution deals with fundamental rights. This important clause acts as a strong safeguard against any type of religious discrimination or persecution in addition to acknowledging the importance of religion in the lives of its residents. With a rich historical background, Article 25 has been instrumental in forming the social structure of India and is still the topic of continuing discussions and interpretations. In this article, we examine the origins and development of Article 25, its core components, its applicability to India’s sociopolitical environment, and the difficult balance it strikes between individual religious freedom and intergroup peace.
  • One must examine India’s fight for independence and the early years of its nation-building process to fully understand the meaning of Article 25. The Indian subcontinent’s deeply rooted religious plurality was a defining characteristic, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the other writers of the Indian Constitution saw the need of addressing it. The nation’s cultural fabric bears the unmistakable imprint of centuries of cohabitation, merger, and conflict between many religious traditions. Therefore, the issue of religious freedom became of utmost importance when the Constitutional Assembly was established to prepare the path for an independent India.
  • Article 25 was designed as a reaction to the intricate theological dynamics that existed in the nation. The founding fathers aimed to create a secular and inclusive country where people may freely practice their religion without worrying about persecution or repression. Because it guarantees that religious minority’ values would be recognized and protected under the new constitutional framework, Article 25 has become a ray of hope for them.
  • Fundamentally, Article 25 ensures that every person has the freedom to practice their religion. According to it, “Subject to public order, morality, and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.” Three crucial dimensions of religious freedom are covered in this concise clause, each of which contributes to the idea of religious liberty as a whole.
What does Article 25 states ?

Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

Landmark cases under Article 25

Appointment of Non-Brahmins as Pujari: N. Aditya v. Travancore Devaswom Board

  • The question in this case was whether it was against the law to install a non-Malayali Brahmin as the “Santhikaran” (Priest or Pujari) of the Kongorpilly Neerikode Siva Temple in Kerala.
  • The court ruled that a person can be designated as a “Santhikaran” regardless of caste as long as he or she is knowledgeable, suitably qualified, and taught to conduct the puja in an acceptable manner for the worship of the god. Additionally, it was noted that the temple in this instance is not a particular religion that requires a particular style of worship.

Gulam Abbas v. State of UP

  • Shias and Sunnis argued in the case of Gulam Abbas v. State of UP over the performance of religious ceremonies by the Shias on a specific plot of land in mohalla Doshipura in Varanasi. The Supreme Court established a 7-member committee with Divisional Commission as its chairman, three members from the Shia sect, and three members from the Sunni sect in order to prevent conflicts between these communities and find a long-term solution to this issue. The committee suggested moving Shias’ graves in order to create a barrier between their places of worship and those of the Sunni faith. As a violation of their basic right to freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26, the Sunni sect objected to these proposals. These arguments were dismissed by the court.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that, despite Muslim personal law prohibiting grave shifting, the fundamental right protected by Articles 25 and 26 is not absolute and is subject to public order. If the court determines that grave shifting is in the public’s best interest, the parties’ consent is irrelevant.

Bramchari Sidheshwar Bhai v. State of West Bengal

  • The Ram Krishna Mission sought to establish itself as a non-Hindu minority in this case, with its members to be considered as Hindus in terms of marriage and inheritance but to be recognized as non-Hindus in terms of religion. This would undoubtedly imply that they are granted the status of religious non-Hindus rather than legal Hindus, much like Sikhs and Buddhists.
  • In response, the Supreme Court declared that Ram Krishna adherents cannot assert that they are a member of the religion’s minority. The Hindu religion and the Ram Krishna faith are not different and independent. It does not belong to a religious minority. Therefore, it cannot assert the basic right under Article 30 (1) to create and oversee Ram Krishna Mission’s educational institutions.

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