- Nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on questions concerning the relationship between the right to freedom of religion and the rights of individuals to dignity and equality.
- The establishment of the Bench emanated out of an order of reference made on review petitions filed against the Sabarimala judgment.
- It will answer a series of wideranging questions and to expound the scope and extent of the Constitution’s religious liberty clauses.
Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer, one of the foremost drafters of the Constitution said that in our country, religion and social life are inextricably linked.
The practice involves persons, in particular those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, rolling over plantain leaves left behind with food half eaten by Brahmins, in the belief that doing so would cleanse their skin of impurities.
Striking a balance:
The Court has to strike a balance between respecting the autonomy of cultural and religious communities and also ensuring that individual rights are not entirely sacrificed at the altar of the community.
Essential religious practices:
- The Supreme Court has attempted to do so by carving out a jurisprudence that virtually allows it to sit in theological judgment over different practices.
- It has done this by recognising that it is only those practices that are “essential” to religion that enjoy constitutional protection.
- Any other ritual is seen as secular and amenable to the state’s interference.
- It invoked it to rule, in 2004, that the performance of the Tandava dance was not an essential tenet of the religious faith of the Ananda Margis, even though the followers of the religion conscientiously believed it to be so.
- Similarly, the Court, especially during the tenure of Chief Justice of India P.B. Gajendragadkar, struck down a number of rituals across religions on the grounds that those practices were embodiments of superstition as opposed to faith.
- In December 2014, the Supreme Court of India placed a temporary ban on madesnana, a 500yearold ritual performed at the Kukke Subramanya Temple in Karnataka.
- The Court has often stated that the “essential religious practices” test is indeed the only way it can reconcile the two impulses of respecting religious autonomy and enforcing individual rights.
Source:” https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-warp-and-weft-of-religious-liberty/article30551695.ece “-The Hindu.
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