Constitutional Safeguards on Right to Religion

Article 25 endows the Right to Religion not only to the citizen but to every person within the territory of India. It guarantees to every person the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. However, it is not absolute and subject to public order, health, morality and other provisions relating to fundamental rights. Read along to know more!

The right to Religion is a very personal and private right of every individual. It’s a matter of faith and belief that drives and guides the moral concepts of a human being. It is a way of life for some, for some worship very close to heart. Morality and liberty are many a time ruled by one’s religious believes. And it’s very delicate and dangerous to interfere in one’s religious believes. Te experience of the western countries and the massacre that followed in the name of religion worldwide led the political philosophers to propound the theory of secularism which meant that the State shall be separated from religion. Separate the Church from the State. In years to follow, little did they know that generations of humankind shall follow this principle to live life peacefully and coexist with other religions in a very calm fashion.

In India, it was the Constitution that laid down the principles of secularism stating that the State shall not have a religion. It shall be equal for all. The balance of equilibrium was restored by the Preamble to the Constitution. As B.P.Reddy, J noted in the case of S. R. Bommai v Union of India[1], “while the citizens of the country are free to profess, practice and propagate such religion, faith, belief as they choose, so far as the state is concerned i.e., from the point of view of the State, the religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial. To it, all are equal and all are entitled to be treated equally.”

Article 25 endows the Right to Religion not only to the citizen but to every person within the territory of India. It guarantees to every person the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. However, it is not absolute and subject to public order, health, morality and other provisions relating to fundamental rights. Here is a striking example of the balance of equilibrium, where the right to religion and conscience is safeguarded but subject to certain restrictions. If any those restrictions mentioned come into foreplay, it has to be squared.

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A manifestation of judicial approach towards such safeguards the Supreme Court[2] has said, “No rights in an organized society can be absolute. Enjoyment of one’s rights must be consistent with the enjoyment of rights also by others. Where in a free play of social forces it is not possible to bring about a voluntary harmony, the State has to step in to set right the imbalance between competing interests.” The Court further added that “A particular Fundamental Right cannot exist in isolation in a watertight compartment. One Fundamental Right of a person may have to coexist in harmony with the exercise of another Fundamental Right by others also with a reasonable and valid exercise of power by the State in the light of the Directive Principles in the interests of social welfare as a whole.”

Also read Religion and Equality in Liberal Constitutionalism


[1] AIR 1994 SC 1918

[2] Acharya Maharajshri Narendra PrasadjiAnandPrasadjiMaharaj v State of Gujarat, AIR 1974 SC 2098