Article by Pankaj
The Constitution of India gives fundamental rights to its citizens, vide article 25 – The right to a) freedom of conscience, b) profess, practice and propagate religion.
25. (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
(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial,
political or other secular activity which may be
associated with religious practice;
(b) 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.
However, there are certain religions or religious systems / institutions, which do NOT give to its followers the right to their belief or conscience. One MUST Believe in the system, a certain God, etc. More specifically, its followers MUST subjugate their conscience to their specific religious principles, which are not just some principles but more specifically religious dogma. This is exemplified by those systems which themselves claim to 'harvest the souls' of the persons and keep it in the 'custody' of the ecclesiastical authority, rather than let it remain where it originally, naturally and rightfully belongs – as the conscience of the person, with the person.
[An aside – that there are fundamental differences in the systems is a known fact. As an example, it is a judgement of the High court that the Hindu marriage is a 'sacrament' whereas the christian or islamic marriages are a 'contract'.]
Moreover, not only does it not approve of any of its followers the right to freely practice and modify or even change his / her beliefs, it goes further so as to DENY this right. There are religions / systems which go even beyond a Denial of the right. The followers who do so may be excommunicated or sentenced with death, as per the beliefs and practices of such systems. As an example, not believing in Allah but some other God, or the prophet, may be heresy or apostasy, punishable with death in Islam. Similarly, the church denies its followers the right to move out of the system at all or practice varying or other beliefs, even within the christian fold.
The above are not some kind of restrictions or peer pressure, rather they are a matter of principle and practice, which is enforced by such systems. Hence, such religions or institutions not only abrogate the fundamental rights of Citizens, who happen to be its followers, they go further so as to deny the most fundamental and basic 'right', existence itself. Thereafter, they go even further, to the extreme, by punishing with death. Moreover, in doing so, it assumes for itself an extra judicial and extra constitutional authority – note.
Hence, the Constitution cannot explicitly or implicitly recognize, or allow to operate, Institutions or systems connected to or depending on such belief systems.
The other rights, to minority rights for example, do not explicitly specify which kind of Religions or their allied institutions in particular are allowed or not – surely they cannot be any of those which deny or abrogate the fundamental rights, or as a matter of principle may deny the right to exist (by means of the death penalty) itself.
As the State can legislate on the secular aspects of any religious institutions or rights, the State can ask any such institution to give an explicit undertaking that it does NOT deny or abrogate any fundamental rights of the citizens. Surely those propagating christianity or islam, or allied institutions doing any social service, cannot be permitted. Note that the citizens who are the followers finally do not have any say in this matter but rather it is the church or clergy / mullahs who have the authority in their respective systems.
In other words, if such (allied) institutions want to operate at all, it is the church or ulema which must declare that they themselves permit the right to conscience / belief, practice and worship freely. More specifically, they must permit the right of their followers to convert out of their belief systems into others, freely, as a matter of principle.
Also, the right to convert, or freely practice any belief system, of a citizen, has an obvious Fundamental
Limitation – they cannot convert into a system which itself abrogates the fundamental rights of the citizen him / herself. So the constitution cannot recognize conversion into christianity or islam for that matter, or even recognise the two religions, or christians and muslims, as the fundamental nature of the constitution itself would be changed (refer the Keshavananda Bharati case), if it does so.
The constitution obviously recognizes the Hindu family of religions, which do NOT abrogate the Fundamental Rights of the citizens to freely believe, practice or worship but THEMSELVES GRANT this right.
Any admissible system per the constitution must obviously not deny or abrogate or murder any Fundamental Rights. Any exercise of the right to change / convert or practice his / her beliefs cannot be into a system which itself abrogates the Fundamental Rights. Suicide and murder are not allowed as a fundamental limitation of the right to freedom.
It is not just ultra vires, ab initio void but also in direct contradiction and opposition to the fundamental nature of the constitution itself and the existence of a citizen as a citizen, along with his / her Fundamental Rights.
Some of the major problems we face as a nation are because we do not recognize this fact.