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Spiritual orientation, religious practices and courts UPSC NOTE

 Recent Madras High Court order

  • In a significant yet controversial order in P. Navin Kumar (2024), by Justice G.R. Swaminathan of the Madras High Court, the religious practice of angapradakshinam has been allowed. 

  • The practice involves rolling over the banana leaves on which other devotees (in this instance) of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral of Nerur village in Tamil Nadu had partaken food. 

  • The order overruled the 2015 order of Justice S. Manikumar.

  • Justice Swaminathan, reach the conclusion that the petitioner, P. Navin Kumar — who has taken the vow of angapradakshinam, and is entitled to execute it as part of his freedom of religion under Article 25 and right to privacy under Article 21 and human dignity — is in no way undermined in such a practice. 

  • He even held that rolling over on used banana leaves is part of the freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(d).

  • Without any evidence being strictly examined, Justice Swaminathan took judicial notice of the fact that angapradakshinam is an established religious practice. 

The complex relation

  • Religion has been at the centre of human societal existence since time immemorial. Man is incurably religious; Indians more so. 

  • Right now, we are in a rush hour of god with religiosity on the rise and spirituality on the decline.

  • The court order has revived the debate on issues such as 

    • what is religion; 

    • how essential practices of any religion are to be determined, and 

    • how far the judiciary has been consistent in such determination. 

  • The framers of the Indian Constitution had subordinated the freedom of religion to all other fundamental rights. 

  • It has further been subjected to public order, health and morality, with additional powers being given to the state to bring in social reforms. 

  • The courts have further restricted the freedom to only the ‘essential religious practices’

  • Accordingly such a plea was accepted in just seven out over 47 cases and that is why the latest pronouncement, by Justice Swaminathan needs critical evaluation

Way forward

  • Judges should not become the clergy to determine purely theological issues 

  • A progressive nation such as India should not allow even an essential religious practice if the same is contrary to constitutional ethos and values

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Spiritual orientation, religious practices and courts UPSC NOTE
Spiritual orientation, religious practices and courts UPSC NOTE
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