Secularism and Constitution of India: Unity in Diversity
The core ethos of India has been a fundamental unity, tolerance and even synthesis of religion. It is an indubitable fact that hundreds of millions of Indians belonging to diverse religions lived in comity through the ages, marred through at times by religion revolts, economic exploitation and social suppression being often at the bottom of it all.
India is the birth place of four major world religions: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Yet, India is one of the most diverse nation in terms of religion. Many scholars and intellectuals believe that India's predominant religion, Hinduism has long been a most tolerant religion. India is a country built on the foundations of a civilization that is fundamentally non-religious.
The Preamble of Indian Constitution aims to constitute India a Sovereign, Socialist, Democratic Republic. The terms socialist and secular were added to it by the 42nd amendment.The whole constitution is summarized in the preamble. It is the mirror to the spirit of the constitution. The arrangement of the words in the preamble is also very significant. Indian society iws a multi-religious society,it is having different csste,religion along with several religion diversification. So, all these are the divisive factor in some way or the other and if not handled carefully then can cause a threat to the unity and integrity of the nation.
The constituent assembly has visualized the peculiar situations of the country and a very arranging the preamble it aims to secure to citizens justice, equality and liberty. The basic aim is to promote fraternity while assuring unity and integrity of the nation along with individual dignity. Fraternity is a very significant tool to combat the divisive factor. Religious harmony is a must to promote fraternity particularly in Indian context. So it's a constitutional mandate upon the state to combat the factors which curtails religious fraternity. It is also incumbent upon the state to take positive as well as negative actions to promote fraternity. Art. 25(1) guarantee to every person the freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate religion.
Religion in India:
To understand the concept of secularism in respect of constitutional philosophy first we have to understand the term "RELIGION". In general sense, Religion is a system of faith and worship of supernatural force which ordains regulates and control the destiny of human kinds.
According to Merriam Webster dictionary, ''Religion as an organized system of faith and worship, a personal set of religious belief and practice, a cause, principle or belief held to with faith and order.
Swami Vivekananda,' It is based on faith and belief and in most cases consist only of different sect of theories that is the reason why we find all religion quarreling with each other.
Dr.RadhaKrishan, ''The main aim of the Hindu faith is to permit image worship as the means to the development of the religious spirit to the development of the supreme who has his temples in all beings.
From these definitions we can conclude that no universally acceptable definition as to what exactly religion is.There appears to be near unanimity that religion, generally,is a belief or faith in the existence of a supernatural being and the precepts which people follow for attaining salvation.
The term religion has not been defined in the constitution but the meaning given by the Supreme court of India to the religion can be referred here, the Supreme court in Commissioner H.R.E v. L.T. Swammiar 1954 AIR 282,1954SCR 1005 held, Religion is a matter of faith with individuals or communities and it is not necessarily theistic. A religion has its basis in a system of beliefs or doctrines, which are regarded by those who prefers that religion as conducive to their lay down a code ethical rules for its followers to accept, it might prescribe rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship, which are regarded as integral parts of religion and these forms and observance might extend even to matters of food and dress.
The freedom of religion guaranteed under Indian Constitution is not confined to its citizen but extends to all persons including alien. This point, was underlined by the supreme court in Ratilal Panchand V. State of Bombay 1954 AIR 388,1954 SCR 1035,as it is very important because substantial number of foreign christian missionaries in India were engaged at that time in propagating their faith among the adherents of other religious.
India is a secular country but what is secularism? According to Donald Eugene Smith,' The secular state is a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom of religion deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion is not constitutionally connected to a particular, nor does it seek either to promote or interfere with religion upon closer examination it will be seen that the conception of a secular state involves three distinct but inter-related sets of relationships concerning the state, religion and the individual Indra V. Rajnarayan 1975 AIR, S.C 2299,the basic feature of the secularism was explained by the hon'ble supreme court which held that, secularism means' that state shall have no religion of its own and all persons of the country shall be equally entitled to the freedom of their conscience and have the right freely to profess, practice and have the right freely to profess, practice and propagate any religion''. S.R.Bommai V. Union of India 1994 AIR, SC 1981 The Hon'ble Supreme court while upholding the dismissal of four state governments ruled by BJP, on the ground of religious conduct, held that ''secular not only meant that the state should have no religion of its own and should be neutral as between different religious, but that political party which sought to capture the power, the religious would come to capture the power, the religions would come to acquire a secondary or less favourable position.
Secularism and Constitution of India:
Secularism as contemplated by the Constitution of India has the following distinguishing features:
(1) The state will not identify itself with aor be controlled by any religion;
(2) While the state guarantees to everyone the right to profess whatever religion one chooses to follow, it will not accord any preferential treatment to any of them.
(3) No discrimination will be shown by the state against any person on account of his religion or faith.
(4) The right of every citizen, subject to any general condition, to enter any offices under the state and religious tolerance form the heart and soul of secularism as envisaged by the constitution. It secures the conditions of creating a fraternity of the Indian people which assures both the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation.
The Supreme Court has ruled in (Bal Patil and Anr. v. union of India) that the State has no religion and State has to treat all religions and religious people equally and with equal respect without in any manner interfering with their Individual rights of religion, faith and worship.
The objectives and parameters of a secular, socialist, democratic republic had to be expressed in such flexible, yet firm, fashion that a creative and realistic jurisprudence and complex of constitutional strategies could be put into operation which would harmonies not antagonize, religious minorities, integrate not acerbate, hostile strata, abolish not accentuate, the socio-religious discrimination endured by the weaker human sector and generate a system and society where secular unity would comport with cultural diversity.
In Venkataramana Devaru V. Stae of Mysore 1958 AIR 255,1958 SCR 895 Venkataramana temple was belonging to the Gowda Saraswath Brahaman community. The trustees of this denominational temple refused admission to Harijans on the ground that the caste of the prospective worshipper was a relevant matter of religion according to scriptural authority and that under Art.26(b) of the constitution they had the right to manage their
Indian Model of Secularism:
(2) It has a place not only for the right of individuals to profess their religious beliefs but also for the right of religious communities to establish and maintain educational institution.
(3) The acceptance of community specific rights brings us to the third feature of Indian secularism because it was born in a deeply multi-religious society, it is concerned as much with inter-religious domination as it is with intra-religious domination.
(4) It does not erect a wall of separation between the state and religion. This allows the state to intervene in religions, to help or hinder them without the impulse to control or destroy them.
(5) It is not entirely averse the public character of religion. Although the state is not identified with a particular religion, there is official and therefore public recognition granted to religious communities.
(6) Multiple values and principled distance means that the state tries to balance different, ambiguous but equally important values.
This type of model makes its secular ideal more like a contextual, ethically sensitive ,politically negotiated arrangement, rather than a scientific doctrine as conjured up by ideologies and merely implemented by political agents.
Secularism undoubtedly helps and aspires to enable every citizen to enjoy fully the blessing of life, liberty and happiness, but in the pursuit of this ideal, those who believes in secularism must be inspired by a sense of ethical purpose in dealing with their fellow citizens.
# Pandey J.N,Constitutional Law of India,central law agency,allahabad
# The complete words of Vivekananda,(1),P.127
# Dr.Radhakrishnan-Religion and Society,P.103
# India as a Secular state,Donald Eugene Smith,Princeton university press,New Jersey
# Law and Religion,V.R.krishna Iyer,other India Book store