From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Verdicts on religious issues - Constitutional Morality
A five-judge constitution bench has deferred its decision on the review of the 2018 Sabarimala verdict until a larger bench examines a range of broader issues.
Complications with a larger bench
- The parameters of review usually permit a narrow reconsideration in case of an error in the verdict or discovery of new evidence.
- Apprehensions that the majority judgment could open up new questions go well beyond technicalities.
- The court has clubbed together with the question of the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple with others — the entry of Muslim women in the dargah/mosque and of Parsi women married to non-Parsis to the holy fireplace of an Agyari.
- Also whether female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community constitutes that religion’s essential practice.
- It has put together issues that may not belong in the same frame.
Religion vs Fundamental Rights – Constitutional Morality
- The-seven-judge bench has been asked to find a balance between the right to freedom of religion and other constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
- It is expected to define “essential religious practice” and “constitutional morality”.
- In a large and diverse democracy, spelling out judicial doctrines on these matters removes essential ambiguities.
- It also narrows the room for maneuver for them and eventually for justice.
- Constitutional morality has been used to emancipatory effect in past cases by the apex court in striking down the restrictions on women of a certain age in the 2018 Sabarimala decision. In another verdict in the same year on decriminalising homosexuality.
- The court upheld ideas of freedom and equality and the constitutional promise of a pluralistic and inclusive society while redressing an injustice.
- In defining constitutional morality, the court will have to go into the question of its limits and boundaries, its clash with religious beliefs and faith and what is essential to them.
- It could not only be tying its own hands for the future but also circumscribing individual freedoms and treading into the clergy’s domain.
- The court has been inconsistent in applying the essential religious practice doctrine that it evolved in the 1950s.
- The court’s push for expanding its remit and for clarity on complex questions is misguided and counterproductive.
- In some cases, it is okay to keep to the narrow path, take it case by case.