No person in India can be compelled to declare his religion

Bombay High Court: In a landmark judgment, a bench comprising of A.S. Oka and A.S. Chandurkar, JJ declared that by virtue of Article 25 of the Constitution, every individual has the right to claim that he does not practice or profess any religion and thereby directed the state that they cannot compel any individual to declare or specify his religion in any form or in any declaration.

In the present case the petitioners were members of a registered organization “Full Gospel Church of God”.  Though they believed in the existence of Lord Jesus Christ but they did not believe in any religion, much less Christianity. According to their belief, Lord Jesus Christ desired to have a kingdom of heaven and not to form any religion. Therefore, they wanted a gazette notification to be issued recording that they were not Christians and that they belong to ‘no religion’. This application was rejected by Government Printing Press against which they filed a public interest litigation in Court.

The Court took into consideration various judgments including Commissioner of Police v. Acharya Jagadishwarananda Avadhuta (2004) 12 SCC 770  where it was stated that ‘man’s relation to his God is no concern of the State’. The Bench also observed that Article 25 (1); of the Constitution is in two parts. The first part confers fundamental right to freedom of conscience whereas the second part confers a right on a citizen to freely profess, practice or propagate any religion. The Court clarified that as freedom of conscience confers a fundamental right to entertain a religious belief, it also confers a right on an individual to express an opinion that he does not belong to any religion. Therefore, no authority which is a state within the meaning of Article 12 or any of its agency or instrumentality can infringe the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and thereby, the Court set aside the order of the Government Printing Press.Dr. Ranjeet Suryakant Mohite vs. Union of India, Public Interest Litigation No. 139 of 2010, decided on  23.09.2014

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