Constitution doesn’t allow to abuse other faiths, goes against the constitutional ethos: Madras High Court

In a move to curb hate speeches from religious events which affect the country’s communal atmosphere, Madras High Court has in verdict made it clear that constitution does not grant one the right to abuse others faith.

Delivering the verdict, N Seshasayee from Madurai bench said that organisers of religious events should be careful that no actions or speeches hamper the country’s religious atmosphere. “this Court senses an urgent need to infuse responsibility among the active practitioners of every religion to ensure that they hold their religious meeting, congregation or convention without breaching the Constitutional spirit of secularism, for not everyone seems to take it seriously. While the Courts stay neutral, they still do not blindfold itself to the happenings around,” the Court said.

Madras High Court in its verdict also slammed the people who try to establish domination of one faith over other, by terming it to be against constitutional ethos. The Court explicitly said that the freedom of religion, as granted by the constitution is not absolute and has conditions attached to it.

“The secular ethos that overflows from the Constitution has not provided a citizen a free way to profess, practise or propagate one’s religion and faith, nor any open space for demonstrating the domination of one religion over the other…

… They, [the framers of the Constitution] do not rush to declare the equality of the fundamental right to profess, practice, and propagate religion, but have introduced the rider restricting the right to freedom of religion inter alia to public order and other provisions of Part III of the Constitution first, before introducing the equality of right to religion. Article 19(2) also underscores public order as a restrictive factor on the fundamental right of free speech and expression…

The Preamble to the Constitution prides itself to constitute this nation into a secular Republic. However, without establishing equality in the conscience of the citizens, that may be a distant dream. And, at the ground level it can reduce public order that concerns both Articles 25(1) and 19(2) of the Constitution into empty-expressions…If We, the People, should have concern for secularism, then equality of religions must be let to occupy the consciousness of every religious group, since secular values cannot exist without respect to equality. Preserve equality, it will protect secularism should be the mantra. But if equality is disturbed, then as held in Rev. Stanislaus Vs State of Madhya Pradesh &Another … it ‘would impinge on the freedom of conscience guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.”

The Court further added that the desire to establish one faith’s superiority over other, hurts the constitutional ethos of equality. ” every authority who decides to grant permission for any such meeting or congregation or convention of every religious group shall obtain a written undertaking from the organizers of such meeting etc., that they would ensure that no speech offending or denigrating any other religion or their faith or their mode of worship or other practices associated with it will be made. And, every instance of breach of this undertaking should invite immediate prosecution of the speaker and the organizers,” the Court added.