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Constitutional courts can’t interfere with temple rituals: SC

Context:

The Supreme Court said that constitutional courts could not interfere with day-to-day rituals and sevas performed in temples on the basis of “public interest” petitions- while hearing a writ petition that alleged that rituals were not being performed as per traditions at the famous Tirumala Tirupati temple.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the SC Judgement on interfering with temple rituals
  2. Power of Writs
  3. Article 226 before Article 32
  4. Article 226
  5. Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion in India
  6. Secularism in India

Highlights of the SC Judgement on interfering with temple rituals

  • The Supreme Court held that the day-to-day rituals and sevas performed in temples is not for a constitutional court to look into and the question of whether a particular ritual was being performed in the right way or not was a “disputed question of fact”.
  • The writ jurisdiction of a constitutional court under Articles 226 and 32 is limited.
  • At the most, Courts could ask the temple administration to clarify in case devotees complain about discrimination or of not allowing darshan while taking into consideration the current public health crisis.

Power of Writs

The SC has power to issue directions or orders or writs for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights.

The Constitution empowers the Supreme Court and High Courts to issue orders or writs of the following types:

  1. Habeas Corpus
  2. Certiorari
  3. Prohibition
  4. Mandamus
  5. Quo Warranto

Habeas Corpus

  • Habeas Corpus is a writ that is enforced to protect the fundamental right to liberty of an individual against unlawful detention.
  • This writ commands a public official to deliver a detained person in front of the court and provide valid reasons for the detention.
  • However, this writ cannot be issued in case the proceeding is for contempt of a legislature or a court.

Certiorari

  • Certiorari is issued to a lower court directing that the transfer of a case for review, usually to overrule the judgment of the lower court.
  • The Supreme Court issues the writ of Certiorari in case the decision passed by the lower court is challenged by the party.
  • It is issued in case the higher court finds it a matter of over jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction.

Prohibition

  • Prohibition is a writ issued by a higher court to a lower court to enforce inactivity in the jurisdiction.
  • It happens only in case the higher court is of the discretion that the case falls outside the jurisdiction of the lower court.
  • Writ of Prohibition can only be issued against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities.

Mandamus

  • Mandamus is issued to a subordinate court, an officer of the government, or a corporation or other institution commanding the performance of certain acts or duties.
  • Unlike Habeas Corpus, Mandamus cannot be issued against a private individual.
  • The writ of mandamus can be used to order the completion of a task or in other cases, it may require an activity to be ceased.

Quo warranto

  • Quo warranto is issued against a person who claims or usurps a public office.
  • Through this writ, the court inquires ‘by what authority’ the person supports his or her claim.
  • This writ prevents the illegal assumption of a public office by an individual.

Article 226 before Article 32

  • The SC has ruled that where relief through the high court is available under Article 226, the aggrieved party should first move the high court.
  • In case of the enforcement of Fundamental Rights, the jurisdiction of the SC is original but not exclusive. It is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 226.
  • Recently, the SC also conveyed its concerns that in many matters involving personal liberty, the High Courts are not exercising their jurisdiction as constitutional courts.

Article 226

  • Article 226 of the Constitution empowers a high court to issue writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens and for any other purpose.
  • The phrase ‘for any other purpose’ refers to the enforcement of an ordinary legal right. This implies that the writ jurisdiction of the high court is wider than that of the SC. This is because the SC can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights and not for any other purpose, that is, it does not extend to a case where the breach of an ordinary legal right is alleged.
  • The high court can issue writs to any person, authority and government not only within its territorial jurisdiction but also outside its territorial jurisdiction if the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction.

Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion in India

Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.

Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

  • Article 25 is the bedrock of secularism in India and it states that people have the freedom to
    • Conscience (inner freedom of thought),
    • Profess (declare one’s religious beliefs openly),
    • Practice (perform religious worship), and
    • Propagate (dissemination of one’s religious beliefs) their religion.
  • The Right to Propagate religion does NOT include the right to convert another person to a particular religion.
  • Thus, Article 25 covers not only religious beliefs (doctrines) but also religious practices (rituals).
  • However, the rights guaranteed under Article 25 are subject to reasonable restrictions to maintain public order, morality and health.
  • Religious rights under Article 25 are available to both citizens and non-citizens.

Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs

  • Article 25 gives freedom to an individual, while Article 26 deals with an entire religious denomination or any of its section.
  • Under Article 26, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to:
    • establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
    • manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
    • own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
    • administer such property in accordance with law
  • The rights guaranteed under Article 26 are also subject to reasonable restrictions to maintain public order, morality and health.

Article 27: Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion

  • Article 27 prohibits the State from spending any public money collected by way of tax for the promotion of any religion.
  • In other words, the state should not spend the public money collected by way of tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion.
  • This provision prohibits the state from favouring, patronizing and supporting one religion over the other.
  • This also means that taxes can be used for the promotion or maintenance of all religions.
  • Article 27 prohibits only the levying of a tax and not a fee. This is because the purpose of a fee is to control secular administration of religious institutions and not to promote or maintain a religion. Thus, a fee can be levied on pilgrims to provide them with some special service or safety measures.

Article 28: Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

  • Article 28 prohibits religious instruction (religious teachings) from being provided in educational institutions that are Wholly Maintained by State funds.
  • Article 28 distinguishes between 4 types of religious institutions and has different restrictions on providing religious instructions for different types:
 Type of Educational InstitutionStatus of Religious Instruction
1.Wholly Maintained by StateCompletely Prohibited
2.Administered by the State, but established under some trust or endowmentPermitted – no conditions
3.Just Recognized by StatePermitted – but only with consent (or Guardian’s consent in case of a minor)
4.Just Receiving Aid from StatePermitted – but only with consent (or Guardian’s consent in case of a minor)

Secularism in India

  • Secularism is a principle that advocates separation of religion from civic affairs and the state.
  • The term means that all the religions in India get equal respect protection and support from the state.
INDIAN SECULARISMWESTERN SECULARISM
Equal protection by the state to all religions. It reflects certain meanings. First secular state to be one that protects all religions, but does not favour one at the cost of others and does not adopt any religion as the state religion.Separation of state and religion as mutual exclusion means both are mutually exclusive in their own spheres of operation.
In the Indian context, secularism has been interpreted as the state maintaining an “arm’s length distance” from ALL religions.Western secularism can be seen as the state refusing to interact with any form of religious affairs.

-Source: The Hindu

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