It has been observed on many occasions that the Right to freedom of religion often clashes with the right to equality and individual dignity. Discuss in the light of constitutional provisions and recent judicial pronouncements.

Individual dignity is one of the founding principles of our Constitution, finding mention in its preamble.

That apart, certain constitutional provision ensures individual dignity:

  • Article 14: equality of laws; cannot be discriminated on any grounds including religious.
  • Article 19: Freedom of speech and expression.
  • Article 21: right to life.

Additionally, Constitution provides for religious freedom by:

  • Secularism: part of preamble and basic structure.
  • Article 25: freedom of religion.
  • Article 26 and 27: freedom with respect to religious practices.

However, certain recent issues have threatened dignity of individual at the altar of religious freedom.

  • Sabarimala issue.
  • Triple Talaq issue.
  • Issues of love jihad.
  • Goolrukh Gupta case.

Some recent judicial pronouncements on these issues give clarity:

  • Sabarimala case: Supreme Court has ruled that the practice of preventing entry of women was discriminatory and quashed it.
  • Triple talaq issue: the Supreme Court in Saira Bano case ruled that the dignity of women is threatened in the practice of triple talaq and hence it is unconstitutional.
  • Goolrukh Gupta case: Mrs Gupta, a Parsi married to a Hindu was restrained from performing last rites of her father by the Parsi Association. The Supreme Court ruled that woman doesn’t lose identity after marriage and hence practice is unconstitutional.

In conclusion, it can be stated that while religious freedom is the corner stone of a secular state, rights of an individual take precedence and are sacrosanct.

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