On mixing religion and governance
Hello all.

This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time now. In the USA, they have these rules about NOT mixing religion and government. I believe it is enshrined in their constitution. Citizens are able to challenge any attempts to the contrary in a court of law.

My question is, do we Indians have anything similar? A case in point would be the recent law making slaughter of cows punishable by 7 years of imprisonment in Karnataka. Can we, as private citizens, challenge such blatantly unconstitutional acts in court? How can we go about it?


As opposed to keeping religion out of the state, India has different laws for different religions.

Here is a newspaper quote that might interest you:

Quote:A coalition of local Muslims, Christians, civil-rights activists and a Hindu-dominated organisation of farmers has warned that it will mount statewide protests if the state government enacts a law barring the slaughter of cows. Opponents say the legislation is “anti-poor, anti-farmer and anti-democratic".

The controversial Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed by the state assembly in March and by the state’s Legislative Council over fierce opposition last week. The Karnataka governor, HR Bhardwaj, has not said whether he will approve the bill.


“Beef is eaten not just by Muslims and Christians. Dalits and tribals are also eating beef. What the government is trying to impose is nothing but an attack on the food habits of the poor and the downtrodden,” said Mavalli Shankar, the president of the low-caste Hindu Struggle Society, which is organising protests against the bill.


Protests against the bill have picked up steam in recent months. On June 28, in Bangalore more than a dozen groups, including the Rajya Raitha Sangha (state farmer organisation), Komu Souharda Vedike (Communal Amity Forum), the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, which fights for the rights of Dalits, and the Beef Merchants Association organised a rally that drew 20,000 people.

U R Ananthmurthy, an acclaimed Kannad author and professor, who tore up a copy of the bill during the protest, said the legislation was communally motivated. It would make criminals out of ordinary Muslims and Christians, and would put farmers in distress because they would not be able to sell off their cattle, he said.

“If the bill is implemented old and used cattle of the farmers would have no takers and it would cause a great imbalance. Cutting across religious lines people should come forward to oppose the bill, which is an interference in the dietary habits of people,” he said on national television.

Another Jnanpith-winning Kannad writer, playwright and actor Girish Karnad, said that the BJP-led government was operating with a Hindutva agenda threatening the poor, uneducated and minority communities.


Karnataka Siddaramaiah, the opposition leader of the Congress Party, said: “The bill is against the secular character of the constitution and it can be enacted only in Hitler’s regime, not in a democracy. It forces non-vegetarians to become vegetarians ... If beef vanishes from the shops, the price of mutton would shoot up to four-fold, to 1,000 rupees. It will severely impact cost of living and food problems will increase.”

This is the source: http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/...135%2Fapps

So I suppose the answer is yes. We can, and some of us are already challenging such legislations in courts.

Although of course, the Hindu fundies have much sway and these protests and even the case might end up as futile attempts.
This stupid, unconstitutional rule is is so blatantly against freedom and democratic ideals. Would filing a public interest litigation in court help? As I understand, the state assembly has certain privileges protecting them against law suits.


Appending a useful discussion from facebook

Sharath Vasishta
On Bengaluru's Vidhan Soudha there is a saying engraved. It says "Government Work Is God's Work"... if this is the case then how can government activities be separated from religious? How can we change it? need suggestions...
about a week ago · Like · · Subscribe

Raj Subramanian That is why Government works misteriously.
May 11 at 12:53am · Like · 2 people

Mithun Kumar They're actually right, Sharath. Government's work is indeed gods work... Both don't exist all the same! ;-)

May 14 at 11:06pm · Like · 1 person
Siddharth Rs A good point is raised here. One can challenge against this in a competent court of law questioning 'whether engraving such a quote on the wall of a democratic institution like the state assembly is constitutional? Also questions can be asked to President of India, Law and Parliamentary Affairs ministries through RTI about legality and constitutional propriety of such writing ...
Saturday at 12:11pm · Like · 2 people

Prashanth Randadath we should protest
Saturday at 12:50pm · Like

Sharath Vasishta all i am saying is, GOD and Religion must be left out of administration as decisions cant be based on non existing entities... we live in a real world not an imagination... When scripture like those on Vidhana Soudha are engraved it shows discrimination against non - believers... and that is unconstitutional
Saturday at 7:53pm · Like · 1 person

Neville Lobo Our Chief Minister is a devoted worshiper. I thought we were a secular democracy, I'm not sure anymore. This man and his govt. has been giving away tons of cash to temples across the state. Isn't that basically making it a state sponsored religion? Why is no one questioning this?
Yesterday at 1:51am · Like · 1 person

Sharath Vasishta Exactly Neville... and trust me its not just for the purpose of 'God' or 'for something good' he is doing that... but for community's trust and most importantly VOTES
Yesterday at 10:33am · Like

Anoop Sinha Now this is something I've been wondering about for a while now: is there any Indian law that insists on separation of state and religion?
Yesterday at 12:26pm · Like

Ajita Kamal ‎@Anoop: No, I've looked into it. There is no Indian law that explicitly separates state and religion like in the US constitution. Our consolation, as we all know, is that no other country's constitution requires as a "fundamental duty" its citizens to develop scientific temper and humanism.
Yesterday at 3:32pm · Like · 1 person

Sharath Vasishta Actually there is an article in our constitution and Ajita you did not look for it efficiently... its Article 27 which states "The state shall have no religion".... Moreover evidence for secular state can be provided in our preamble alone.....See More
23 hours ago · Like

Ajita Kamal ‎@Sharath: I have read that, and I do not interpret Article 27 as a separation of religion and state like in the US constitution, where it explicitly states that there can be no laws made in support of a particular religion. The interpretat...See More
23 hours ago · Like

Ajita Kamal And keep in mind, in my original comment I said "There is no Indian law that explicitly separates state and religion like in the US constitution". This still stands. Our government, even though the language of the law says it is irreligious...See More
23 hours ago · Like

Sharath Vasishta I am not interested righ now whether our constitution supports the practice of religion. Our administration is obviously carried out by people and people believe in things in this case religion. But when it comes to the act of administratio...See More
22 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Siddharth Rs The PREAMBLE of our constitution states that the people of India have constituted the ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic’. Article 25 to 28 of our constitution deals with the right to freedom of religion wherein Article 25 makes it clear that the citizen’s right to freedom of conscience to profess, practice and propagate religion is subject to several restrictions. This right to freedom of religion does not mean that the state should propagate religion by worshiping any idols or symbols or cult, babas/swamis etc.. Here the state means all offices of both Union and State governments, Courts, Boards, Corporations, public sector undertakings etc. The State can impose reasonable restrictions on this rights as are provided in Article19 (2) to (6) of the constitution.
These provisions indicate that the State has no religion of its own and that there can be no promotion of any religion by the state. In this context earlier rulings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court indicates that “secularism is an integral part of the basic structure of our constitution” ( Keshavananda Bharati Vs. state of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461 & S.R.BomaiVs. Union of India ). The International definition and accepted principle of secularism is the separation of religion from the affairs of the State. Religion is a personal belief and affairs of the state have nothing to do with it....Unfortunately in our country it's always 'makers of law are the breaker of law'...
4 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Ajita Kamal I am not disagreeing that the Indian constitution makes an attempt to allow religious freedom, and India has no state religion, but I don't think my point is being understood here. The Indian constitution does not prevent the Indian government from making laws that are directly perceived of as religious laws. This is in stark contrast to the US constitution. What I am saying is that the word of the law is insufficient in India for us to say that Indian constitution guarantees separation of church and state.

Of course I agree that the Indian constitution upholds secularism. It also upholds scientific temper and humanism as I've noted above. But these are open to interpretation, not clear pronouncements.

Here the 1st amendment of the US constitution is very clear:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

Of course, even in the US there are tons of violations of this, but no where near how intertwined religion and state are in India.

The article 25 that we have all mentioned says this:

"25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion
(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law
(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly"

Not only is it about freedom for anyone to propagate religion (which is a different issue from the state not propagating religion) but there are all these built-in loopholes that make it impossible to enforce.

Read between the lines

" Nothing in this article shall // prevent the State from making any law // providing for // the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus"

This is just a small example. The Indian government is directly involved in the operation of temples in India. Of course we can all agree that the state should not be in the business of promoting religion. That is not the argument. We need to stop thinking of the constitution as the be-all-end-all. The constitution is a flawed document, and like anything that is the product of cumulative legislative processes, needs to be refined and amended. The constitution of India is currently inadequate to address the issue of separation of church and state in its current form. This is my conclusion.
3 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead

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