From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 27
Mains level : Paper 2- Secularism in India
The High Court of Karnataka has not been able to settle the hijab issue. The petition has been filed in the apex court by a Muslim student against the high court judgement.
Political and Constitutional dimensions of the issue
- The issue of the hijab is political as well as constitutional.
- The top court will examine the constitutional aspect and its judgment will hopefully settle the issue.
- But the political dimension of the hijab issue will continue to trouble Indian society for a long time.
- The Indian Constitution provides for freedom of religion and conscience on the one hand and secularism for the governance of the country on the other.
Understanding the freedom of religion under Indian Constitution
- Under the Indian Constitution, there is a separation of religion from the state as in Europe.
- The essence of India’s secularism is that the state has no religion.
- This is clear from Articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution.
- Article 27 says that no tax can be levied for promoting any particular religion.
- In other words, no public revenue is permitted to be spent in favour of any particular religion.
- Article 28 says that no religious instruction shall be given in any educational institutions wholly maintained out of state funds.
- The same Article says that no educational institution recognised or aided by the state shall compel any person to attend religious classes or worship therein.
- Article 25(2)(a) empowers the state to regulate secular activities associated with religious practice.
- Article 15 prohibits any kind of discrimination on the ground of religion.
- Freedom of religion is subject to other fundamental rights: Above all, freedom of religion is made subject to other fundamental rights, apart from the reasonable restrictions on the grounds of public order, morality and health.
- Thus, the freedom of religion under the Constitution does not enjoy the same status as other secular rights such as equality before law, non-discrimination, right to life and liberty, etc.
Why India needs to be secular
- Theocracy will ensure the disintegration of the country.
- 1] India is a multi-religious country where the largest minority is around 200 million.
- The Government of India had notified as many as six minority religions in the country.
- So, a theocratic state with the majority religion as the state religion is an unworkable proposition.
- 2] Complex structure: Another crucial factor which makes a theocratic state impossible in India is the complex, inegalitarian, hierarchical and oppressive social structure of the majority religion.
- 3] There would be no equality: Since a theocratic state based on the religious texts, in the Indian context, would mean a state which would deny equality before law and equal protection of law to the subaltern class and discriminate against them on the basis of caste, it will be inherently unstable.
- This may lead to perennial conflicts and the eventual disintegration of society.
- Therefore, we reach the inevitable conclusion that India, as a nation, can survive only as a secular state where the state has no religion and does not promote any religion.
Secularism was chosen as the foundational principle of the republic to keep the nation united. Enlightened citizens should realise that if secularism is jettisoned, the hard-won national unity will be in peril. It is the patriotic duty of every citizen to strengthen secularism and thus save the republic.