The Concept of Secularism: An Indian Perspective
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 is a multi – religious society, it is having different caste, 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 deliberate sequence has been followed while 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. So, it is a cause and effect relationship .Justice is also a subjective and circumstantial concept. It implies the balancing of rights. These concepts of justice, liberty and equality revolves around fraternity which is the prime goal of the country has to achieve through these constitutional provisions. Regarding the concept of justice social justice is given prime importance because without social justice economic justice cannot be achieved and without economic political would be futile. So all these terms given in the Preamble are having their own Significance and all efforts have been made to ensure that the real spirit of the constitution shall be expressed in the Preamble. It contains the essential principles and goals of the Constitution.
Fraternity is a very significant tool to combat the divisive forces. The present paper is deliberating upon the concept of secularism in this background. 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. Article 25(1) guarantee to every person the freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and prorogate religion.
So, it is the manifestation of state neutrality in the matter of religion as it implies equal conservations of all religion and equal religious right to all the citizens. Along with that it prohibits discrimination on the ground of the religion race, caste, sex or place of the birth. article 29(2) provide that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state, receiving aid out of the state funds on grounds only of religion , race , caste , languages or any of them .
In S.R. Bommai vs. UOI “It was held that Religious tolerance and equal treatment of all religious group and protection of their life and property and the places of their worship are an essential part of secularism enshrined in our constitution. while the citizen of this country are free to profess, practice and prorogate such religion, faith or belief as they choose, so for as the state is concerned i.e. from the point of view of the state, the religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial to it, all are equal and all are entitled to be treated equally.” Further the Court while emphasizing upon the significance of Secularism declared it as the basic structure of the Constitution.
The concept of secularism was not expressly incorporated in the constitution at the stage of its making. However its operation was visible in the fundamental rights and directive principles. The concept of secularism, though not expressly stated in the constitution, was, nevertheless deeply embedded in the constitutional philosophy. The concepts of secularism are not static; it is elastic in connotation. In this area, flexibility is most desirable as there cannot be any fixed views in this concept for all time to come. The courts decide from time to time the contours of the concepts of secularism and enforce it in practice . In. M Ismail faruqui vs. UOI ,”It was held that it is clear from the constitutional scheme that it guarantees equality in the matters of religion to all individuals and groups irrespective of their faith emphasizing that there is no religion of the state itself. The preamble of the constitution read in particular with articles 25 to 28 emphasis this aspect and indicates that it is in this manner this concept of secularism embodied in the constitutional scheme as a creed adopted by the Indian people has to be understood while examining the constitutional validity of any legislation on the touch stone of the constitution.
The concept of Secularism is one facet of the Right to Equality Woven as the Central golden thread in the fabric depicting the pattern of the scheme in our Constitution. Any steps inconsistent with these mandates are Unconstitutional. The Court further Held that any state Government which pursues unsecular policies or unsecular course of action acts contrary to the Constitutional mandate and renders itself amenable to action under article 356.
In Aruna Roy vs. U O I ,” The court held that concept of secularism is not endangered if the basic tenets of all religions all over the world are studied and learned. Value based education will help the nation to fight against fanaticism, ill-will, violence, dishonesty and corruption. These values can be inculcated if the basic tenets of all religions are learned. The Hon’ble Supreme court has held in lata Singh vs. state of U.P ,” that caste barriers in societal interactions are anti – secular. Inter caste marriage shall be promoted, protected and conserved by the state to promote greater secular values. This is also a part of secularization process. The concept of secularism is not merely a positive attitude of religion tolerance. It is also a positive concept of equal treatment of all religions.
As Article 25, 15(3), 29 reflect the state neutrality in the matters of religion. These are the restrictive dimensions of secularism. Now the question for consideration is that whether this state neutrality or such restricted role is sufficient to fulfill the constitutional goal which is incumbent upon the state. To answer this question the nature of Indian secularism has to be keenly observed. The western secularism implies the state neutrality in the matters of religion because they are having a uni religious society. So state neutrality is sufficient and no further action is required on the part of the state to create religious harmony.
In Indian context the state as a neutral entity in a matter of religion was never an issue because all elements enshrined in the constitution are interwoven and we have adopted our society with all its peculiar features thereby automatic adoption of the multi religiosity also . It’s a constitutional mandate upon the state to bring a harmonization between various religions. So, Indian secularism has to be seen in its own light as compared to the western secularism. in Indian context mere state neutrality in the matters of religion is not sufficient as article 25 , 15(1) ,29(2) manifests non declaration of any state religion or it talks about a mere guarantee of fundamental right to religion to the citizens. These are the restrictive or narrow aspects of secularism in Indian context. Indian secularism requires something more than the above mentioned things. It’s a way of life in India as it is deep rooted in Indian society. So to promote the constitutional goal of fraternity, for promotion and assurance of individual dignity and unity and integrity the pro active role of the state is required for religious harmony and tolerance.
State has to curb the situations which would result in to religious apathy and try to create a balance in religious diversities which exists both in belief and practice in India. Socio economic upliftment, creation of religious harmony, inculcating religious tolerance among the citizens by education regarding secular values can be some tools to promote secularism in Indian context.
Seeravai H.M., “Constitutional Law of India”, 4th ed.Vol .2
Jain M.P., “Indian Constitutional Law” (6th edition 2010).
Pandey J.N., “Constitutional Law of India” (43rd edition 2006)
# AIR 1994 SC
# Jain M.P., “Indian Constitutional Law”, Vol 2 at page 1402
# AIR 1994 SC
# 2002 6 sc
# 2006 sc
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