Enumerate the fundamental rights pertaining to religious freedom in Constitution of India. Do you agree with the view that Freedom of religion implies freedom to change religion also? Give reasons.

Freedom of religion in the constitution of India is guaranteed by Article 15 and Article 25 to 28. The mandates of these articles are as follows:

  • Article 15 provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 25 guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession ,practice and propagation of religion
  • Article 26 guarantees freedom to manage religious affairs
  • Article 27 guarantees Freedom from taxation for promotion of religion
  • Articles 28 guarantees Freedom from attending religion instruction.

The question whether freedom of religion implies freedom to change religion, should be seen from two angles i.e. freedom to change one’s own religion and freedom to change religion of others. 
The article 25 guarantees all persons freedom of conscience which includes freedom to change his / her religion or belief because freedom of conscience is an inner freedom of an individual to mould his relation with godHowever, such change from one religion to another should be in consequence of one’s conviction that the religion in which he was born into is not up to his rational or spiritual convictions.  Change in religion may also be the result of losing faith in religion in which one is born because of the rigidity of its tenets and practices.  Sometimes one may even lose total faith in the very concept of the existence of God and turn to atheist. In all these cases, freedom to change / choose religion is totally justified. However, there should be some moral restrictions; and from time to time, Supreme Court has also testified such restrictions. For example, in the Sarla Mudgal case, the court had held that the religious conversion into Islam by a person from non Islamic faith is not valid if the conversion is done for the purpose of polygamy. Similarly, in Lily Thomas case, it was observed that marrying another woman after converting to Islam is punishable under the bigamy laws.
Another side is freedom to change other person’s religion. The article 25 guarantees freedom of propagation of religion, which means to transmit one’s religion by exposition of its tenets. However, this does not include the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, as the clause (1) of same article guarantees the “freedom of conscience “to every citizen and not to followers of a particular religion. This also postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion because such efforts would impinge on the “freedom of conscience”. Thus, while freedom to religion  also includes freedom to change one’s religion it does not include (1) changing religion for the purpose of polygamy or bigamy (2) forceful conversions.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Enumerate the fundamental rights pertaining to religious freedom in Constitution of India. Do you agree with the view that Freedom of religion implies freedom to change religion also? Give reasons.

Published: March 14, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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