“India is a secular democratic republic and there is complete freedom for any individual to decide whether he or she wants to adopt or profess any religion. If a person is practising any particular religion, he or she can give up that religion and claim that he or she does not belong to any religion.”
In a significant step forward, Bombay High Court’s judgement yesterday held that the government cannot twist someone’s arm into declaring his religion in any document, form or declaration. Thanks to a PIL filed by Dr Ranjit Mohite, Kishore Nazare and Subhash Ranware, a bench of justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar ruled that every citizen of the country, a secular democratic republic, was conferred - under Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees right to freedom of conscience – the right to openly say that he or she does not practise any religion.
The three petitioners had initially approached the State printing press seeking issuance of a public notification that they belonged to ‘no religion’. The petitioner said they belonged to an organisation named Full Gospel Church of God, which constitutes of about 4000 members. Although the name of the organisation understandably suggests that it may be a Christian body, the organisation does not believe in any religion. The petitioners maintain that although they believed in Jesus Christ, they did not believe in Christianity nor did they conform to any other religion, adding that they had a right under the Constitution to declare the same.
The Centre and Maharashtra Government opposed their plea saying ‘no religion’ filled up in official forms cannot be treated as a religion. The High Court, on the other hand, was of the view that India was a secular democratic republic with no state religion, adding that no State authority can infringe upon a person’s right guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari