Article 25 of Indian Constitution – 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
- regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
- 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 (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the ‘reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.
Article 25 of Indian constitution Explanation
Article 25 should be read along with Article 26. While Article 25 of Indian Constitution guarantees rights to an individual, Article 26 guarantees such rights to an organised body of individuals like the religious denominations or any section of them. Both these articles protect matters of religious doctrine or belief as well as acts done in pursuance of religion rituals, Observances, ceremonies and modes of worship.
These articles embody the principles of religious tolerance that has been one of the characteristic features of Indian civilization from the start of its history, the instances and periods When this feature was absent were merely temporary aberrations. They also emphasise the secular nature of Indian polity which um founding fathers considered to be the very basis of the Constitution.
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The Constitution does not define ”religion” anywhere, but the Supreme Con gave a comprehensive definition of religion in Commit, Hindu Religious Endowment v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt in the following words:
Religion is certainly a matter of faith with individuals or communities and it ‘ not necessarily theistic ( belief in the existence of a god or gods ) . There are well known religions in India like Buddhis and Jainism which do not believe in God or in any intelligent First Cause. religion undoubtedly 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, but it would not be correct to say that religion is nothing else but a doctrine or belief.
A religion may not only lay down a code of ethical rules for its followers to accept, it might prescribe rituals and Observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are regarded as integral parts of religion, and these forms and observations might extend even to matters of food and dress.
Article 25(1) of Indian Constitution – Explanation
Article 25(1) of Indian Constitution guarantees to every person, and not merely to the citizens of India, the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. The right is subject in every case to public order, health and morality and other provisions of Part III. Further exceptions are en-grafted upon this right by clause (2) of the “article 25 of Indian constitution”.
Sub-clause (a) of clause (2) saves the power of the State to make laws regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or secular activity which may be associated with religious practice and
sub-clause (b) reserves the State’s power to make laws providing for social welfare and social reform even though they might interfere with religious practices.
Freedom of conscience connotes a person’s right to entertain beliefs and doctrines concerning matters, which are regarded by him to be conducive to his spiritual well-being. A person has freedom to believe in religious tenets of any section or community.
The right is not only to entertain such religious beliefs as may be approved by his judgment or conscience but also to exhibit his sentiments in overt acts as are enjoined by his religion. In the words of the article, he may ”profess, practice and propagate his religion”
Article 25 (2)(a) of Indian constitution
While the right to freely practise religion subject to the limitations of public order health and morality is guaranteed, there is no such protection to activities which are economic, commercial or political in their character, though they are associated with religious practice.
It may not always be easy to say if any particular matter falls under essential religious practice or is only a secular, commercial or political activity which has come to be associated with religion. A few cases from the US and Australian Constitutions may be cited to illustrate the difficulty.
In Adelaide Co. v. Commonwealth“, a company of ”Jehovah’s Witnesses” (a religious organisation) which, among other things, was opposed to all wars.
In 1941 started proclaiming and teaching matters which were prejudicial to war activities and the defence of the Commonwealth. Steps were taken against them under the National Security Regulations. The legality of government action was raised by means of a writ petition before the High Court of Australia.
The High Court sustained the action of the government and held that the religious freedom was not in any way infringed by the National Security Regulations. This is an instance where political activities, though arising out of religious belief entertained by a particular community, were considered not to be protected by the Constitution.
Article 25 (2) (b)
Clause (2)(b) of Article 25 deals with two exceptions:
- laws providing for Social Welfare and social reform, and
- the throwing open of all ”Hindu religious institutions of a public character” to ”all classes and sections of Hindus”.
As pointed out above, the right of religious freedom under clause (1) is subject to the power of the State to make laws for social welfare and social reform‘ The Bombay High Court held that an Act to prevent bigamous marriages Was not violative of religious freedom since it fell under clause (2)(b).
The second part of Article 25(2)(b) makes it clear that the right to freedom of religion would not prevent the State from throwing open all “Hindu religious institutions of public character” to all ”classes and sections of Hindus”. Public institutions would include temples dedicated to the public as a whole and also those founded for the benefit of sections or denominations of people.
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The right conferred by Article 25(2)(b) of Indian Constitution is a right conferred on ”all classes and sections of Hindus” to enter into a public temple, and on the unqualified t§rms of that article, that right must be available, whether it is sought to be exerv clsed against an individual under Article 25(1) or against a denomination under Article 25(b).
Exercise of religious freedom which does not fall within the exceptions of clause (1) or (2) of Article 25, cannot be restricted on any other extraneous considerations. Thus expulsion of three students belonging to the sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the school on the ground that they did not sing the National Anthem was invalidated because it did not fall within any of those exceptions. The exceptions can be enforced only With the authority of law and not otherwise.
What is article 25 of Indian constitution?
Article 25 of Indian Constitution talks about Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. The objective of this article is to provide freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate religion.
Explanation I to Article 25 of the Constitution recognized the rights of the followers of the Sikh religion to wear and carry on their persons kirpans as an emblem of their religion. Kirpan means a sword. But its size and shape has not been prescribed by the Sikh religion. It may, therefore, be a sword of any size or shape. But a Sikh cannot carry any number of kirpans or swords. He is not allowed to possess an extra sword without licence.
Explanation II to Article 25 of Indian Constitution declares that the expression ”Hindus” shall be construed as including persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion. The explanation is only for the purposes of Article 25(2)(b) and for no other. Various statutes accord legislative recognition to the fact that even though Jains may not be Hindus by religion, they are to be governed by the same laws as Hindus and cannot claim to be a separate religious minority.
Case laws on Article 25 of Indian constitution
Murdock v. Pennsylvania, illustrates the mingling of commercial activities with religious practice. In this case also the petitioners were ”Jehovah’s Witnesses” who went from door to door distributing literature and soliciting people to buy certain religious books and pamphlets. A municipal ordinance which imposed tax on religious itinerants was invalidated by the Supreme Court of US on the ground that it constituted a denial of freedom of religion. Further it held that ”Jehovah’s Witnesses” were not engaged in any commercial activity.
But in lanes V. Opelika‘s, the court took a different view. A State ordinance had required the taking of licence and paying tax for carrying on business of selling books and pamphlets from house to house. It was held that the conditions of the ordinance Were applicable to a religious organisation if it engaged itself in selling printed propaganda pamphlets.
BIBLIOGRAPHY- V.N SUKHLA ON CONSTITUTION OF INDIA