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 The most important international legislation on the freedom of religion or belief is A.18 in the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) from, 1966.CCPR A.18 is built upon A.18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (DHR) from 1948.

A.18 of CCPR guaranteed that everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and this freedom will only be subject to the such limitation as are prescribed in by the law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental right and freedom of others. Seen together with the General Comments the phrase “religion” covers all faiths in supernatural powers, traditional and untraditional, while the phrase “ belief” primarily refers to non-religious and quasi-religious philosophies of life such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism.

The Indian Constitution similarly under A.25 guaranteed to every of its citizen freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. The term religion is not defined in the Indian constitution. However the Supreme Court has considered this in Comm. HRE v L. T. Swamia AIR 1954 SC282 & S. P. Mittal v Union of India AIR 1983 SC1 “ A Religion has its basic in a system of belief or doctrines which are regarded as those who profess that religion as conducive to their spiritual well being.” Thus the constitution endeavors to protect the person’s belief on his religion.

Right to Freedom of opinion and expression on the other hand is guaranteed under A.19 of the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, 1966. It thus ensures every person to express his opinion on the one hand while restricts the state machinery in taking any measures to restrict or prohibits them in doing so.

In India this freedom of expression is guaranteed under A.19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees to all its citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression subject only to the condition prescribed under A.19 (2) i.e. state can restrict the scope of this right on the ground of security of state, friendly relation with foreign states, public order, Decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation incitement to offence and integrity and sovereignty of India.

In Lowell v Griffin (1939) 303 US 444 Freedom of speech and expression includes the expression of one’s ideas through any communicable medium or visible representation such as gesture, signs, and the like.

In Romesh Thapar v State Of Madras AIR 1950 SC 124,SC states that freedom of expression also connotes publication and thus the freedom of press is included in this category.

In Express Newspaper Ltd. v Union of India AIR 1958 SC 578, SC held that since freedom is for action and action is for an end, the positive kernel of freedom lies in the ability to achieve the end; to be free means to be free for some accomplishment. And this implies command of the means to achieve the end. Unless the equipment necessary for effective action is at hand, unrestraint may be a mockery of freedom.

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Category Constitutional Law, Other Articles by - G. ARAVINTHAN