What is Religion?

  • Religion is a matter of faith with individuals or communities and it is not necessarily theistic.
  • A religion has its basis in “a system of beliefs or doctrines which are regarded by those who           profess that religion as conducive to their spiritual well being”
  • Religion is thus essentially a matter of personal faith and ideas as may belief.


Article 25. Freedom of Conscience and Free Profession, Practice and Propagation of Religion:

 Article 25 says that subject to public order, morality and health and other provisions, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. A These rights are available to all persons citizens as well as non-citizens. 

(a) Freedom of conscience: Inner freedom of an individual to mould his relation with God or Creatures in whatever way he desires. 

(b) Right to profess: Declaration of one’s religious beliefs and faith openly and freely.

(c) Right to practice: Performance of religious worship, rituals, ceremonies and exhibition of beliefs and ideas. 

(d) 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.


India is a secular state 

The Preamble of the Constitution declares the resolve of the people to secure to all its citizens “liberty to thought, belief, faith, and worship”. A Secular State was never considered as an irreligious or atheistic State. It only means that in matters of religion it is neutral. Secularism is neither anti-God nor pro-God, it treats alike the devout, the antagonistic and the atheist. It eliminates God from the matters of the State and ensures that no one shall be discriminated against on the ground of religion.

 Bommai v. Union of India, AIR 1994

The Supreme Court has held that “secularism is a basic feature of the Constitution”. The State treats equally all religions and religious denominations. Religion is a matter of individual faith and cannot be mixed with secular activities The concept of positive secularism separates spiritualism with individual faith. The State is neither anti-religion nor pro-religion. In the matter of religion, the State is neutral and treats every religion equally.

Bijoe Emmanuel v State of Kerala, (1984)

 FACTS: In the instant case, three children belonging to the “Jehova’s witnesses” of the Christian community were expelled from the school for refusing to sing the National Anthem because it was against the tenets of their religious faith which did not permit them to join in any rituals except if it be in their prayer to Jehovah, their God. They challenged the validity of their expulsion on the ground that it was violative of their fundamental right under Article 25 (1). A circular issued by the Director of Public Instructions had made it compulsory for all children in schools to sing the National Anthem. High Court said, conduct of the children is not showing 

unqualified respect to the National Anthem, would endanger the security of the Nation in that the same will develop among the citizens a tendency to ignore the mandates of the Constitution.

Court directed the authorities to re-admit the children in the school and to allow them to pursue their study.

Ramesh v. Union of India,1988 

The petitioner, a practising advocate of the High Court filed a public interest litigation under Art. 32 for issue of a writ in the nature of prohibition of telecasting the serial titled Tamas’ and to enforce petitioners fundamental right under Articles 25 of the Constitution.

 The serial ‘Tamas’ is based on a novel written by Bhisam Sahni. It depicts how during partition of India communal violence was generated by fundamentalists in both the communities.

It was held that although in this case there was no violation of Art. 25 but accepted that the petitioner has a right to draw attention of the Court to ensure that the communal atmosphere is kept clean and unpolluted. Court held that there was no such danger as the respondents had not acted with malice or bad motive in screening the serial. Instead it teaches people that such things should not be repeated.


Noise Pollution in the name of Religion not allowed Moulana Mufti Saveed Mohd, and ors v. State of W.B AIR 1999 :

Calcutta High Court has held that that restrictions imposed by the State on Bengal the Calcutta the use of Microphones and loudspeakers at the time of Azan is not violative of right under Art. 25 of the Constitution. Azan is certainly an essential and integral part of Islam, but use of microphone and loudspeakers are not an essential and integral part. Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v. K.K.R.M.C. Welfare Association, AIR 2000 the Supreme Court has held that in the exercise of the right to religious freedom under Arts. 25 and 26,and are subjected to “public order, morality and health” no person can be allowed to create noise pollution or disturb the peace of others. The custom of religious prayer through the use of loudspeakers is not an essential element of any religion.


Forced Conversion not allowed Rev Stainislaus v. State of M.P AIR 1977 

Court said “The Article postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets” Article 25 (1) guarantees “freedom of conscience” to every citizen and not merely to the followers particular religion. The Supreme Court held that the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 which provided that a person wanting to convert to a particular religion must make a personal declaration which would be verified by the police, is valid.


Article 25 2 (a) regulating or restricting any economic,financial,political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

  • The freedom to practise extends only to those activities which are the essence of religion. • It does not cover secular activities which do not form the essence of religion. 
  • It is not always easy to say which activities fall under religious practice or which are of secular, commercial or political nature associated with religious practice. 
  • Each case must be judged by its own facts and circumstances.


Article 25 2 (b) 

providing for social welfare and reform or the thrusting of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes & sections of Hindus. A State is empowered to make laws for social welfare and social reform. Thus under this clause the State can eradicate social practices and dogmas which stand in the path of the country’s onward progress. A Where there is conflict between the need of social welfare and reform and religious practice, religion must yield. Social evils cannot be practised in the name of religion. Article 25 also contains two explanations: one, wearing and carrying of kirpans is to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion; and two, the Hindus, in this context, include Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.


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