Sunday, October 23, 2016

Minority Rights Under Article 25, 26, 27 and 28 of Indian Constitution

Article 25 of Indian Constitution - Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

Article 25 of Indian Constitution gives the citizens of our country the freedom to choose or follow any religion. The word freedom to conscience simply means to follow any beliefs in regards to religion or others. Article 19 of Indian Constitution gave the right to freedom of speech and expression, it also drew a picture to the freedom of religion in India. This was due to the fact that even after the partition and creation of Pakistan, Muslims and people of different religions were scattered in different parts of our country. That’s why the constituent assembly made the right to choose one’s own religion very clear by incorporating a separate group of articles. They felt it necessary to do so after numerous points were made by the Advisory Committee on fundamental rights, leaders of minorities and tribes. The word secular, meaning, not connected with religious or spiritual matters, only appears in Article 25 of Indian Constitution. The 42nd amendment to the constitution made the point that India is a country that favors no religion in particular.

The majority of the Indian population is Hindus. Still, people who follow different religions like Christianity, Islam etc. still reside in our country. Every citizen is free to follow and practice their respective religions, as long as it does not interfere with public order (which I will explain later). In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the case is not so. They separated from us and became Islamic countries. The rights of all religion are secured in India. This does not mean that when we respect the rights of Muslims and Christians and other such ethnicities, the right of Hindus shall be overlooked. Being secular may also mean giving equal importance to all religions along with no special treatment to a particular religion. But in some cases, the rights of certain minority religions have to be protected and at the same time certain provisions are made to maintain public harmony.
Minority Rights Under Article 25 26 27 28 of Indian Constitution

Disturbing public harmony means that although every citizen is free to practice their religion, they must do so in a way such that it does not interfere with local peace. No religion is allowed to make human sacrifices, no religion can worship on busy highways or public places which might cause unnecessary congestion.

Use of loudspeakers -

On countless occasions, we have all woken up to loud religious music as early as 4:00 am. It may seem noise to some, and music to others. Whether it be the morning ‘pooja’ of Hindus or the “call of the mu’azzin” of Muslims. This often raises the question whether such things are allowed by law. Even the issue of the noise made by the firecrackers at Diwali has made quite a fuss. Now, our constitution respects and abides by the rules and rituals of all religions. However, on the matter of firecrackers, it is clearly stated that Diwali is a festival of lights and not noise. The pollution caused by these is a whole different matter. Keeping this in mind, the timing in which people are allowed the use of firecrackers is limited or regulated.

The use of loudspeakers is not mandated and confirmed by the constitution. But some might argue that their use is allowed under the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, under Article 25 of Indian Constitution, it disturbs the public peace. Hence, none can claim the use of loudspeakers under the right to freedom of religion.

Article 26 of Indian Constitution -  Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right—  a) To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; b) To manage its own affairs in matters of religion; c) To own and acquire movable and immovable property; d) To administer such property in accordance with law.

Article 26 of Indian Constitution gives the right to freely establish and maintain an institution for charitable purposes as well as religious. These institutes, not funded or maintained by the state, can impart religious education, like madrasas. This right is reserved and confined to Indian citizens only. Any foreigner cannot claim this right. It was done so, in order to avoid a repeat of the vast history where various missionaries had migrated and opened their religious houses. Also, these institutions are free to manage their own internal affairs. They can buy or sell permanent or temporary property. They also have the right to maintain those properties, as long as it’s within the law.

Article 27 of Indian Constitution - No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

This article states that no citizen has to pay any sort of tax or payment to the state for the purpose of maintaining or practicing of a specific religion. This includes the funds raised to maintain the properties owned by such institutions. Also, no taxes or funds can be collected to promote any religion under any circumstances. It was done so that no particular religion is favored in such a way that it might dominate people following other religions.

For example, in medieval times, “JIzyah” was a tax imposed on people who were non-Muslims. The funds recovered from such taxes were then used to promote Islam throughout the region. There’s one thing that seemed a little out of place in which, the government can still levy some taxes in order to maintain religious shrines. Despite all these laws, it did not stop private institutions from roaming around in the streets asking for charities. Not to sound harsh.

Article 28(1) of Indian Constitution - No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds

This article states that in any government funded or held college or school or any sort of institute, religious education will not be provided. Institutes which are only partially maintained by the state funds can provide religious education. In such institutes, the students cannot be compelled to take part or perform in any religious activities.

However, in institutes which are set up for only religious purposes and have no government support, the students can be compelled to take part.

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