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Meaning of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution

Posted by Admin on December 22, 2014 | Read the First Comment

It is through several provisions that the Indian Constitution upholds the spirit of secularism. The Article 25 is one of the pillars of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The relevance of this legislation can be gauged only when one understands the importance of preserving the pluralistic ethos of the country and the idea of harmonious coexistence of different religions.

 Meaning of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution

Meaning and Scope of Article 25

The Article 25 states that every individual is “equally entitled to freedom of conscience” and has the right “to profess, practice and propagate religion” of one’s choice. Practicing religion or the act of propagating it should not, however, affect the “public order, morality and health.” The Article doesn’t put any restriction on the government when it comes to making any law to regulate “economic, financial, political or other secular” activities, which may be associated with religious practice.

According to Article 25, the gates of Hindu religious institutions should be opened to every section of Hindus. Here the term ‘Hindus’ also includes individuals who profess Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion. The same holds true for the term ‘Hindu religious institutions.’

Violation of Article 25

The Article 25 is one of the most misinterpreted articles of the Indian Constitution. Although it guarantees the freedom to follow any religion and propagate it, yet this freedom comes with a responsibility to ensure that the public order, morality and health are not compromised in the process.

This constitutional provision does not give individuals the right to conduct animal sacrifice and perform religious rituals on a busy street or public place that causes inconvenience to others. Similarly, the use of loudspeakers in temples or mosques is not guaranteed in the Article 25. Bursting fire crackers for religious occasions and using loudspeakers during religious prayers had come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court that restricted the time of bursting crackers.

The Article 25 should not be considered as absolute. Though the right to perform rituals is protected under this Article, yet the state retains the power to formulate laws to regulate “economic, financial, political” and other activities which are not directly related to a religion. That’s the reason why the government controls the management of some of the temples.

Demand for Amendments to Article 25

Human rights activists and constitutional experts are of the opinion that Article 25 dilutes the importance of secularism that most Indians swear by. Their criticism of this Article stems from the fact that it considers Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as sections of Hindus and doesn’t acknowledge them as independent religions.

The demand for amending clause (b) of Article 25 has started gaining momentum with the leaders of the Sikh community and MPs making a fresh bid to get the Article amended. Adding fuel to this demand, a US-based rights group has launched an online petition to garner more support. According to the president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Sikhism is a religion which has its distinct traditions and philosophy and the Sikhs are being deprived of their legitimate rights due to this Article.