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Key Takeaways

  • The Right to Life and Right to Religion have been discussed briefly.
  • India is a secular country that has given the citizens the Right to Freedom of Religion.
  • The Court takes into consideration the religious sentiments and also the legal and logical thoughts to give a decision.
  • Right to Life is the most important Fundamental Right and considered as the heart of Fundamental Rights.
  • The Madras High Court has rightfully decided that the temples should not be reopened owing to the current COVID-19 situation that the country is facing.

Introduction

India is a democratic country that strictly follows the principle of secularism. The Constitution of India was drafted keeping in mind the pros and cons of other democratic countries in mind and giving utmost importance to the rights of the citizens. A secular country represents no specific religion and India does not associate itself with any specific religion nor does it support any religion nor does it differentiate amongst citizens on the basis of religion.

When any question arises with respect to religion, it is decided with utmost care and keeping in mind that no-one’s religious sentiments are hurt. The Court while deciding a matter on religious issues refers to the personal laws and customs of the religion before coming to a final decision with respect of the matter. But when an issue comes to the Court, the issue is dealt not from just the sentimental values but also from logical and legal point of views as well.

Case at Hand

The freedom to practice religion is unquestionably subordinate to the Right to Life, and when the Right to Life is in jeopardy, the Right to practice religion may take a backseat, according to the Madras High Court. It had rejected a petition calling for the complete reopening of temples that had been closed owing to COVID-19 lockdown limitations.

The petition was heard by a Bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy. Previously, the petitioner had also asked for a complete resumption of bus service in all of the State's districts.

Such an issue would be left to the State to acquire relevant facts and expert opinion before imposing or reducing restrictions, the Court said in dismissing the petition. The Court stated that the State would not take any action without proper consideration. There appears to be no arbitrary action on the part of the State that requires the Court's intervention.

The Court stated that small measures are being taken to restore to normalcy, and that it is preferable to take precautions than the risk of being caught off guard, as the country was when the second wave of COVID-19 struck earlier this year.

Right to Religion

The Indian Constitution under Articles 25 to 28 provides the citizens with the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion. What does this mean for a citizen? This means that a person born into any religious background has the right to believe in any faith and to follow the religion of their own choice. They are free to practice, profess, promote and propagate their religion.

When the Government banned cow-slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, the case was brought before the Court questioning the validity of the ban and challenging it on the ground of it being violative of the religious rights of the Mohammedans. The Supreme Court while imposing a stay on the ban stated that the ban on cattle slaughtering is a State List subject. The Court referred to various similar cases filed before the High Courts and laid reliance on the case of S. Selvagomathy v. Union of India and clarified that the suspension of Centre’s ban on sale and purchase of beef would apply to all of India.

The case of Acharya Jagdishwaranand v. Commissioner of Police, Calcutta clarified that Anand Marg is a religious denomination and performing Tandava on the streets would not be protected under the Right to Religion.

The Supreme Court in the case of Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala stated that the action of the headmistress in expelling the students due to not singing national anthem is violation of their Fundamental Rights under Articles 19 and 25 and also there is no compulsion on anyone to sing national anthem, standing peacefully would amount to showing their respect.

Right to Life

Right to life and Personal Liberty is guaranteed to every individual under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is considered as the ‘heart of Fundamental Rights’. The Right is guaranteed against the State and a person’s Right to Life is subject to restriction only according to the procedure established by law.

The protection is provided only in respect of the State and not an individual. Any violation of the Right can be brought before the Supreme Court under Article 226 as Writ Petition or under general laws. It includes having a life with dignity. The extended interpretation of the Article was provided in the case of Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh. An elaborate list of the rights that would fall under Right to Life was laid down.

Relation between Right to Religion and Life

The Supreme Court has not laid down as a principle that Right to Religion would come under Right to Life. But when the provision entails that a person has the Right to live with dignity, the Right to Religion would follow suit as in India, religion is considered very sentimental and people take pride in their religious practices. So, anything that compromises with the Right to Religion would indirectly impact the Right to Life of a person.

Conclusion

In the instant case of discussion, the Right to Religion is under consideration. A person’s religious practices of visiting their religious places and worshipping their God falls under their Right to Religion but that would be put not only their lives under high risk but also increases the risk of infection to other people as well.

A person’s Right to Life is the most important Fundamental Right given to a citizen as any Right would come into existence only if you are alive. What would you do if you end up without a life, anyway? In these difficult times where everyone’s lives are at stake due to the worldwide health crisis, it is not important to attend a temple and worship. When you believe, your prayers would be heard when you pray even from your house.


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