[Editorial Analysis] Not a holy book

Mains Paper: 1 | Society

Prelims level: Sabarimala Temple

Mains level: Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Context

• Religion has not only been an indispensable part of human existence, but it is an also ineffaceable part of our lives.

• For former President S Radhakrishnan, religion was “a code of ethical rules and that the rituals, observances, ceremonies and modes of worship are its outer manifestations”.

• Religions are nothing but the submission to some higher or supernatural power.

• Accordingly, even the US, despite its wall of separation between church and state is rightly termed as a “nation with the soul of [a] church”.

• Moreover, religions are exclusionary and discriminatory.

Rising the conflict

• The Sabarimala protests against the Supreme Court judgment, though deplorable are thus neither novel nor surprising.

• What is surprising is the Court’s over-indulgence in purely religious matters in the name of constitutional morality and its enthusiasm in reforming religions.

• Reforms are a must, but top-down reforms are always counterproductive.

• Abraham Lincoln in 1838 urged Americans to consciously adherence to the “political religion of the nation”.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself said in 2014 that only the holy book for him is the Constitution of India.
Questioning to the constitution morality?

• Everyone makes a religiously loaded statement while “swearing” by the Constitution expressing full “faith” in the judiciary.

• Is not “faith” another name for religion?

• Our courts are called “temples of justice” and the Supreme Court’s own seal says Yato Dharmasto Jayah (where there is Dharma , there is justice).

• “Dharma” and “law” were used as synonyms in Hindu religion and our apex court too treats them as the same.

• Are not our Supreme Court judges trying to bring in a new civil religion in the name of constitutional morality?

• A “constitutional renaissance” can bring about heaven on earth with the true realisation of justice, liberty, equality and even of fraternity.

• Like priests, they alone have the authority to tell us the meaning of the sacred text.

• Many a time, these lords indeed saved our democracy from authoritarianism and just like god.

• Should religions be subjected to constitutional morality and rationality?

• Rationality and religious beliefs do not go together and the Constitution protects these beliefs.

• In the Preamble itself, our Constitution guarantees “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”.

Article 26

• Article 26 gives autonomy to every religious denomination or any section thereof “in matters of religion”, subject to public order, health and morality.

• In interpreting these articles, the Supreme Court had said that every religious practice will not be constitutionally protected.

• In the process, it ignored the fact that privileging one practice over another is not right.

• Moreover, in Ismail Farooqi (1994), the Court further restricted religious freedom by adding new conditions through new doctrines of “peculiar significance of religious practice” and insisting on “comparative examination of religious practice under different religions”.

Way forward

• It is not the judiciary’s job to reform religions.

• The Sabarimala protests and politicisation of the issue is yet another reminder that we should tread cautiously while dealing with purely religious matters.

• The supremacy of the Constitution need not be converted into an idolatry of the law.

• Constitutional morality is a laudable goal but we are not yet ready for it.

• Despite Constitution’s text, on the ground, neither does freedom of religion mean “freedom from religion” nor does it include — at least for our women — “freedom within religion”

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