Secularism is one of the basic principle enshrined in our Constitution. It provides that the government will treat each and every religion equal and provide no support to any religion. Our Constitution upholds positive secularism rather than negative secularism like in most of the countries in West.
Secularism in west promotes the notion of separation of state and religion. However in Indian context, secularism refers to equal distance of state from all religion and promotion of freedom of religion to individuals and groups.
Secular provisions in our Constitution:
-> Right to equality under article 14 and Right against discrimination under article 15 of Indian Constitution.
-> Freedom of thought and expression under article 19 also covers religious thoughts and expression under reasonable restrictions.
-> Freedom of Religion for individual and organisation as guaranteed under article 25, 26,27 and 28, supports the idea of practicing any religious practice as long as it does not harm the social and moral order of society.
-> Article 29 and 30 provides special protection to religious minorities and their educational institutions.
-> Article 44 in DPSP makes a constitutional obligation on State to bring uniform civil code.
-> Article 51A call upon the citizens to upholds principles of fraternity and brotherhood, and to endure religious diversities.
Apart from these, Supreme Court and several High Courts have taken a wide interpretation of Constitution and pronounced following judgements which have bolstering effect on secularism –
-> Individuals can choose to be atheist and bars government to ask religion of citizens except some cases.
-> Criminalised the appeal to religious sentiments for election campaigning, under section 3 of RPA 1951.
-> Lifted arbitrary ban on entry of women in several place of worship – Sabrimala Temple, Shrine of Shani Shingapur, and Haji Ali Dargah.
-> Recently Indian Judiciary made Instant Triple Talaq illegal. Thus brought more equality to Muslim Women.
Secularism, in Indian Polity, has a positive meaning i.e. developing, understanding and respect towards different religions. In S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India Supreme Court held that secularism is the basic feature of the Constitution.
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