Skip to content


Surksh Chandra Chiman Lal Shah Vs. Union of India and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Appeal No. 1224 of 1973
Judge
Reported inILR1975Delhi32b
ActsConstitution of India - Article 25
AppellantSurksh Chandra Chiman Lal Shah
RespondentUnion of India and ors.
Advocates: A.B. Divan,; S.K. Dholakia,; B.V. Desai,;
Cases ReferredIn Mahant Sri Jagannath Ramanuj Das v. The State of Orissa
Excerpt:
constitution - religion - article 25 of constitution of india - petitioner challenged legality of program initiated by government relating to lord mahavir as being contrary to article 25 - religion and religious practices are fundamental rights - secular aspect of religion are subject to regulation by states - no one's religious right prevent publicity by state given to life and teachings of lord mahavir - petition dismissed. - - the object of the impugned celebration is, as observed by the prime minister, that the message of a great person like bhagwan mahuvir is as relevant today as it was in his time. with the success of the reformation, thereforee, there was a reaction against the unity of church with the state. it must know the good elements of the history and tradition of the.....v.s. deshpande, j.(1) is india a secular state if so, in what sense these questions arc raised by this writ petition filed by a hindu and the connected writ petitions nos. 1225 of 1973. 235 of 1974 and 919 of 1974 filed by some jains to challenge the legality of the programme of the celebration of the 2500th anniversary of bhagwan mahavir's nirvan (salvation) extending over a period of one year from november 13, 1974 onwards by the government of india.(2) the programme for the celebration drawn up by a national advisory committee consisting mainly of prominent members of the jain community and approved by the government involving an expenditure of about rupees fifty lakhs by the government includes the following:-development of a national park named after bhagwan mahavir, erection of.....
Judgment:

V.S. Deshpande, J.

(1) Is India a secular State If so, in what sense These questions arc raised by this writ petition filed by a Hindu and the connected writ petitions Nos. 1225 of 1973. 235 of 1974 and 919 of 1974 filed by some Jains to challenge the legality of the programme of the celebration of the 2500th Anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavir's Nirvan (Salvation) extending over a period of one year from November 13, 1974 onwards by the Government of India.

(2) The programme for the celebration drawn up by a National Advisory Committee consisting mainly of prominent members of the Jain Community and approved by the Government involving an expenditure of about rupees fifty lakhs by the Government includes the following:-Development of a national park named after Bhagwan Mahavir, Erection of stone pillars therein with inscriptions from his sayings, episodic treatment of his life by sculptors; Establishment of a museum of Jain art and paintings, a library of Jain literature; Setting up of a National Council of Jainological studies; Setting up of twenty Bhagwan Mahavir Bal Kendras in which apart from recreation etc., arrangements for imparting knowledge about the life and teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir to children would be made; Establishment of rural library centres named after Bhagwan Mahavir in each State; monument at the birth place of Bhagwan Mahavir at Vaishali consisting of a concealed water tank; Organising of Bhagwan Mahavir Memorial Lectures and institution visiting fellowships and scholarships, arranging seminars, organising joint meetings of the heads of research centres and institutions of Jain learnings; Publication of books on life and teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir; releasing of a postal stamp on November 13, 1974; showing documentary films on Jain art, architecture, paintings and places of pilgrimage; Exhibitions of Jain art, literature, paintings, culture and manuscripts; Declaring November 13. 1974 a Dry and closure of slaughter houses and sale of meat inpublic eating houses, etc.

(3) While all the petitioners ostensibly take the stand that India is a secular State and that the impugned programme is contrary to the secular nature of the State, there is a basic difference in the approach of the Hindu petitioner and the Jain petitioners. Understandably, the Hindu petitioner complains that the State is virtually promoting and maintaining Jain religion in particular and in preference to other religions by the implementation of the impugned programme and, thereforee, the expenditure on it from the public funds is contrary to the prohibition contained in Article 27 of the Constitution. He further says that his Art. 27 :-Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion.-No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religion denomination. own fundamental right to profess and practice Hinduism guaranteed by Article 25 is violated by it. There is some plausibility about nonJains feeling discriminated against by this State patronage of the celebration of an event which the non-Jains are likely to regard as giving a greater importance to the Jains than to the others.

(4) In this background one would not have expected that some members of the Jain community also would feel aggrieved by the impugned programme. For, after all it boosts up the memory of their prophet Mahavir. But the Jain petitioners appear to be the more orthodox members of the Jain community. They say that Mahavir was only the last of the Tirthankars and his role was purely religious. He was not a social reformer. The Jain scriptures lay down the religious practice or the manner (Aradhana) as to how the Jains should observe the Nirvan Anniversary. The impugned programme violates Jain religious practice and the right of the Jains to manage their own affairs in matters of religion guaranteed by Article 26(b) of the Constitution because it is different from the prescribed religions practice and because non-Jains arc associated with it. The Jains regard Mahavir as having obtained salvation. The celebration of a death anniversary would be proper only in respect of persons who have not obtained salvation. It is derogatory to the memory of Mahavir and an insult to it to regard him only as a great man (Maha Manav) rather than a prophet who has obtained the final salvation (Paramatma). The way adopted by the Government to celebrate the Nirvan is not the true Dharma. The propagation of the knowledge of the Jain scriptures can be done only by the Jain saints and not by the Government and the Committee. The association of the name of Mahavir with the national park or the Bal Kendras and the publication of the Jain scriptures by the Government are not contemplated by Jain religion

ART. 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, practice 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 othersecular activity which may be associated with religion 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.

ART. 26.-Freedom to manage religious affairs.-Subject to public order morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right- (B) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion: and they hurt the religious sentiments of the Jains. Imparting the knowledge of Jain scriptures to those who arc not fit to receive it is also prohibited by the Jain religion. The Government has decided to erect a monument to Mahavir taking Vaishali as his birth place. But the Sthanakwasi Jains believe Ksatriya Kunda to be the birth place of Bhagwan Mahavir.

(5) While both the Hindu and the Jain petitioners agree in alleging the impugned programme as being religious in character and, thereforee contrary to the secular role of the State envisaged by the Constitution and by the established policy of the State, one can discern in the allegations of the Jain petitioners a hint that they are also opposed to the secularisation of the significance of Nirvan by the Government while the Jains believe it to be essentially a religious event. Celebration of the 2500th Anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavir's Nirvan in the manner described above by the Government is unconstitutional and illegal, according to the petitioners, for the following reasons :-

(1) India is a secular State partly because of the provisions of the Constitution and partly because of the consistent policy of the Government. The State is not to associate with religion and is not lo interfere with it. The celebration of the 2500th Anniversary of Mahavir Nirvan is contrary to the secular character and policy of the Stale.

(2) The State cannot spend money from the public funds for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religious denomination in view of Article 27 of the Constitution.

(3) The celebration interferes with the right of the petitioners to practice their religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution and the right of the Jam religious denominations to manage their own affairs in matters of religion guaranteed by Article 26(b) of the Constitution.

(6) The Government of India in the Ministry of Education and Shri Anand Raj Surana on behalf of the National Advisory Committee have resisted the writ petitions and pointed out that :-

(1) No fundamental or legal rights of the petitioners are infringed and they have no locus standi to file these writ petitions. No religious activity or ritual is involved in the celebration of the 2500th Anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavir Nirvan. One of the important activities undertaken by the Government since Independence is to commemorate distinguished personalities who have contributed towards our cultural heritage, development of thought and reform of social systems with the following three aims, namely, (i) to bring to light the life and activities of these personalities and to inform, world opinion about the ideas they stood for and their relevance through the ages; (ii) to create and arouse in the younger generation of our own country an awareness of our heritage and to reinterpret the cultural and spiritual values India stands for; and (iii) to promote international understanding through the inclusion of commemoration of celebrations of the noted personalities among similar celebrations of other leaders of thought in the world community through the Unesco etc. Accordingly, the Government celebrated the 2500th Anniversary of Lord Buddha's Parinirvan in 1956, the birth centenary of Rabindranath Tagore in 1961-62. the death centenary of Mirza Ghalib in 1969, the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi in 1969, the 500th Birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in 1969, the first death anniversary of Doctor Zakir Hussain in 1970. the birth centenary of Deenabandhu C. F. Andrews in 1971, the birth cemenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972, the birth bicentenary of Raja Rammohun Roy in 1972, etc.. prior to the impugned celebration. Appropriate amounts of money were spent on these various celebrations. The object of the impugned celebration is, as observed by the Prime Minister, that the message of a great person like Bhagwan Mahuvir is as relevant today as it was in his time. The term 'Ahimsa' has a much deeper and far-reaching significance and. in essence means that the weaknesses of others should not be exploited in any form. it would be in the true spirit of Bhagwan Mahavir's teachings and philosophy if the celebration programme would contribute towards the raising of the life of the common man. particularly of the less privileged sections of the society. Such programme would have a much higher socio-economic impact than expensive constructions and memorials. Bhagwan Mahavir's contribution to Indian culture and to Indian philosophical thought cannot be disputed. To honour eminent personalities of Indian history would not make the celebration religious even though the personalities may have belonged to different religious denominations and do not contravene the religious neutrality of the State expressed in our Constitution.

(2) Article 27 of the Constitution is not contravened by the impugned celebration which docs not amount to promotion or maintenance of any religion. Further, the Government is honouring consistently the religious and cultural leaders of India irrespective of the community or religion to which they may have belonged. It does not thereforee, favor any particular religion.

(3) Articles 25 and 26 arc also not contravened. The impugned celebration does not interfere with the religious practice of the petitioners,The encouragement of study and research in the Jain history, religion and culture as a part of the Indian culture is not an interference with the management of religious affairs of Jains by Jain religious denominations.

(7) While the petitioners on the one hand, and the Government and the National Committee on the other hand, are agreed that the State in India is secular, they obviously do not give the same connotation to the word 'secular' in this context. According to the petitioners, secularism means that the State must not associate itself with religion at all and must have nothing to do with it. They have in mind the analogy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which in Jefferson's words created 'a wall of separation' between the church and the State. In the latest decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the First Amendment, however, it has been observed that-

'JUDICIAL caveats against entanglement must recognize that the line of separation, far being a 'wall', is a blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier depending on all circumstanecs of a particular relationship.'

Nevertheless, the American or the Western conception of secularism seems to be that the State should have nothing to do with religion at all. That is to say, there should be complete non-association and neutrality by the State with regard to religion. The reason why secularism got this meaning in Europe and America is historical. The authority of Catholic church transcended political boundaries. Catholics persecuted the religious dissenters. With the success of the Reformation, thereforee, there was a reaction against the unity of church with the State. The separation of the State and the church is a result of the reaction. The evolution of the concept of secularism in modern India has a very different background. Inspired by the spirit of toleration and liberalism which characterised the Hindu thought from ancient times, the Indian National Congress developed a noncommunal approach in politics leaving religion as being a matter of the conscience of the individual. The secularism in India developed as a part of nationalism and Freedom Movement which assured protection to the minorities and neutrality of the State in regard to all religions. This policy was embodied in the resolution of the Congress

(1) Lemon v. Kurtzman 403 U.S. 602 lit 614 (1971). passed in 1931 at Karachi. As observed by Setalvad, this resolution furnishes a key to the understanding of the attitude adopted by the framers of the Indian Constitution in dealing with the guarantee of religious neutrality. The Debates in the Constituent Assembly show that 'what was intended by the Constitution was not the secularisation of the State in the sense of its complete dissociation from religion, but rather an attitude of religious neutrality, with equal treatment to all religions and religious minorities'. It is perhaps because the word 'secular' was associated with the Western concept that it was not used to describe the character of Indian Constitution in the same way that the word 'socialism' was not used in the Constitution because of the diverse meanings which can be attached to it. In 1961 Dr. Radhakrishnan in his capacity as the Vice-President of India said: 'I want to state authoritatively that secularism does not mean irreligion. It means we respect all faiths and religions. Our State docs not identify itself with any particular religion.'

(8) The thrust of the attack by the petitioners is that. the impugned programme is either itself a religious activity or if it is a cultural activity, then it is a mis-representation of Jain religion. The Government parries the thrust by stating that the impugned programme is not religious at all and that it is intended only to represent and promote Indian culture without mis-representing Jain religion. What is culture? Taking note of 164 definitions Professor D. E. Smith concludes :-

'CULTURE is a collective name for the material, social, religious. and artistic achievements of human groups, including traditions, customs, and behavior patterns, all of which are unified by common beliefs and values.'

Religion is an essential part of culture Professor Werner Stark has distinguished between two kinds of society, one based on community and the other on association. The former is a 'we society', the latter being ''I and you society'. A community contrasted with an association, is a closely knit unity which could be based on religion alone. The replacement of community by association resulted 'Secularism' pages 17 & 18. Ibid 18. Cited at page 127 in 'Secularism in Indial ' edited by V.K. Sinha (1968).

(5) Collected in A. L.Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, ' Culture : A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions '. 'India as a Secular State',

'TYPES of Religious Culture' being Vol. V of 'The Sociology of Religion, pages 1 and 2 in the society being more lossely knit. It ceased to be a unity based on religion but became a multiplicity of individuals more or less co-ordinated for the pursuit of common ends.

(9) In India, prior to the commencement of the Constitution communities tended to be based on religion alone such as the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, etc. This tendency was encouraged by separate electorates. With Independence, the separate electorates went out. The objective of the Constitution is to evolve, in the words of the Preamble, 'fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation'. The remark that the Constitution is not only a political but is also a social document is nowhere more true than here. It does not establish only the State as the political organ but also intends to promote the growth of the nation as a politicocultural entity. To achieve this object, the Constitution has attempted to play up those elements of religion which contribute to a composite culture and to play down other elements which incline towards separatism. The adoption of the wheel from the Ashoka Pillar of Saranath on the Indian National Flag is an assertion of the spritual emphasis of Indian secularism. While Article 28(1) prohibits religious instruction in an educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds obviously because peoples of different religious would attend such institutions. Article 28(2) allows religious instruction to be given in State aided institutions established under any endowments or trusts which requires religious instruction to be given though Article 28(3) takes away the compulsory clement from such religious instruction. Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University are maintained by the Central Government out of public funds. Public funds are spent on the maintenance of certain temples in South India under Article 290-A. Hindi with Devanagari script has been made the official language of the Union by Article 343 of the Constitution. Article 282 enables the Central and State Governments to make grants for any public purpose which would include grants for religious purpose. The only restriction is that the Government must not discriminate between religions countray to Article 14 and must not promote or maintain a partiicular religion as against others contrary to Article 27.

(10) India has a glorious past and is proud of it. In view of the widespread illiteracy in the country, the State had to take upon itself the provision for free and compulsory education for children under Article 45 of the Constitution. The study of history forms part of such education as also of more advanced education in the Universities, Mahavir is one to the great figures of Indian history. It may be that, as contended by the Jain petitioners, his place in history is significant more as a religious leader than as a social reformer. But the religion was propounded for people to live in society. It taught them certain doctrines and expected them to conduct themselves according to those doctrines. It had, thereforee, a positive influence on the conduct of the people in society. It had an impact on society. The main social change sought to be brought about by the Constitution in India is to coalesce the different communities based on religion into a society based on association of people coming together to achieve common ends. This new society based on association has to be nurtured on a composite culture- It has to be made aware of the elements of that culture which nourish the feeling of oneness and national unity. It must know the good elements of the history and tradition of the country. The roles played by the founders and propounders of religions in India like Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Swamy Vivekananda, etc., have greatly contributed to the evolution of the Indian culture. This culture exhibits unity in. diversity. The attempt of the State is to educate the people in understanding this unity in diversity. Each of these diverse elements from different cultures makes a valuable contribution to the common culture. The doctrine of Ahimsa emphasised by Mahavir has a great relevance to the present times both in the domestic and the International fields. It can. be used to support non-exploitation of the weak by the strong, avoidance of violence, adoption of peaceful negotiation and pursuation in solving both the national as well as the International problems. Everyone ought to feel proud that the propounder of such an important principle was born and lived in this country more than 2500 years ago. Even if in the ancient Indian history, the culture of the community tended to be dominantly religious, the consistent trend of history all over the world is the secularisation of cultures particularly in the modern times. As shown by Melant many forces arc working towards the secularization of cultures weaning them away from the hold of religion. The transition from tradition to modernity is a universal phenomenon. Religion as an element of culture has not escaped the process of secularization.

(11) It is in this background that we have to examine the impugned programme with a view to determine whether it infringes on any of the legal or the constitutional rights of the petitioners. The development of a national park named after Mahavir is objected to by the Jain petitioners on the ground that such a park could be used as a place of recreation and some animals may also be killed there and non-vegetarian food may be eaten there and this would make its association with the name of Mahavir irreligious. This objection assumes that Mahavir and his name is a monopoly of the Jains. It forgets that Mahavir was a son of India and is a part of the history of India as such and not merely of the history of Jains or Jainism. If the whole country admires him, none of the Jain petitioners can have a right that the Government should not admire him. As a token of the respect in which he is held and the salutary influence which his life and teachings had and would continue to have on the people of this country, the state wishes to commemorate him by naming a national park after him. Of course, it cannot be ensured that nobody would cat non-vegetarian food in the park or nobody would go there for recreation. But the petitioners have no right to prohibit anyone from eating non-vegetarian food in a public place. Nor do they have any right that a public place should not be named after Mahavir. Going to a national park to see its beauty is the most innocent type of recreation and enjoyment that one can imagine. Jainism docs not forbid it. By no stretch of imagination can it be argued that naming of a national park after Mahavir would violate any fundamental right of the petitioners guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26. The same remarks apply to the naming of Bal Kendras after Mahavir or rural library centres after him. The monument at the birth place of Mahavir will. have a column, with sculptural relief work on selected episodes from Lord: Mahavir's life and inscriptions of passages from selected sayings of Lord Mahavir. The life and teachings of Mahavir would also be taught as a part of Jainological studies in research and educational institutions. Jain scriptures and literature may also be published. In Dav College v. State of Punjab, : AIR1971SC1737 , the Supreme Court held that the provision made by the impugned statute for the study and research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and promotion of study and research of Punjabi language, literature and culture did not affect Article 28(1) of the Constitution as such a provision docs not amount to imparting of religious instruction. It would follow that the publication of books containing the life and teachings of Mahavir and the display of his sayings on monuments, etc-, does not amount to religious instruction. The scheme of Articles 25 and 26 would show ' that it is the religion and religious practices proper which are guaranteed by these fundamental rights. The secular aspects of religion arc subject to regulation by the State. There is no religious right in the members of the Jain community to prevent publicity being given to the life and teachings of Mahavir by the State. On the other hand, they should be thankful for it.

(12) How does this discussion bear upon the problem of India being a secular State Professor Smith gives the following answer :-

'THE state is charged with responsibility for the promotion of Indian culture, but as a secular state must not promote Hinduism. The state, then, must actively encourage the valuable cultural contributions of all religious traditions. In a sense the state becomes a catalytic agent in the process of cultural synthesis which has been going on for centuries.................. The position taken by Professor Kabir (the then Minister for Cultural Affairs) is that as long as the cultural contributions of all the religious traditions are recognized and encouraged, there is no conflict with the principle of the secular state. Thus, grants have been made by the ministry for the translation of various Hindu, Buddhist, and Zoroastrain scriptures and of Maulana Azad's Urdu commentary on the Koran ............ This position, of course, is quite in keeping with the traditional role of the Indian state as the patron of all creeds and cultures. ...... Official policies must deal with both ancient and contemporary Indian culture. In the case of ancient culture the aim is to preserve the cultural heritage of the past and to increase people's understanding and appreciation of it.'

IN1956 the 2500th Anniversary of Bhagwan Buddha's Parinirvan was celebrated by the Government. Public funds were spent on the celebrations which included public meetings, exhibitions of Buddhist art, the visits of foreign Buddhist scholars, the publication of forty volumes of the Buddhist scriptures, the issue of special postal stamps and the erection of a monument in New Delhi to commemorate the event. This was very similar to the programme which in impugned in these writ petitions. The propriety of the celebrations was questioned by a writer and by a Hindu religious leader. Professor Smith, however, justified the celebrations in the following words :-

'While for the Buddhist countries the significance of the event

(11) 'India as a Secular Slate', pages 379, 381, 383 and 384. Ibid., was primarily religious, for India it could be primarily cultural. Buddhism was one of the important vehicles by which Indian culture-languages, art, architecture, sculpture, custom-was spread to parts of East and especially Southeast Asia............ The Government could afford to display a lively interest in a religion which was professed by such a tiny minority within India.'

(13) While religion is an essential element in the Indian culture, cultural activity is distinguished from religious activity by its dominating purpose and objective. While the Jains may have the exclusive right to profess and practice Jainism and to perform the ceremonies prescribed for the observance of the Nirvan of Bhagwan Mahavir, the state and others cannot be shut cut from expressing their respect and admiration for the contribution of Bhagwan Mahavir to the Indian culture. For instance, the marriage ceremony as such may be a matter of religion to be practiced by the parties to the marriage and the priest. But the festivities connected with it are something in which the other can join. It cannot be said, thereforee, that they are barred by religious practice. Similarly, on the death of a Hindu, the performance of his Shradha may be a matter of religion which is a concern of his son and the priest. But the commemoration of the death by paying respects to the memory of the departed is a matter for others who are neither a son of the deceased nor the priest concerned with the Shradha. It would be strange indeed if the marrying couple and the priest were to complain that the joy about the marriage is expressed by others or if the son of a deceased Hindu were to complain that the memory of the departed is being commemorated by others. The distinction between religion and culture is quite clear. According to this test, the programme which is impugned by the petitioners clearly falls within the domain of culture and is not either a matter of religion or religious activity.

(14) Let us now consider if any of these specific articles of the Constitution referred to by the petitioners has been violated by the impugned programme. Article 25 guarantees freedom to profess and practice religion. The Hindu petitioner has not cared to explain how the impugned programme affects his right to profess and practice his own religion. The Jain petitioners say that the manner prescribed by their scriptures for the celebration of the Nirvan is very different from the impugned programme. The greater the difference between the two the more it is evident that the impugned programme is entirely secular and has nothing to do with Jain religion. A secular way of remembering Bhagwan Mahavir is devised by the Government to suit all the people irrespective of the religion to which they may belong. It is the essence of a common cultural activity that everyone should be able to participate in it- It is not meant to be an imitation of a religious practice. It docs not, thereforee, misrepresent the Jain religion or the religious practice. thereforee, the question of hurting the feelings of the Jains docs not arise.

(15) Article 26(b) gives a religious denomination or a section of it a right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion. None of the Jain petitioners is suing in a representative capacity on behalf of any Jain denomination. Assuming for the sake of argument that each such petitioner in his individual capacity can avail himself of the- fundamental right under Article 26(b) or rather complain if such a fundamental right is infringed, none of them has shown how the celebration of the Nirvan of Bhagwan Mahavir in a completely secular way by spending money on works of public utility can be construed to mean interference by the State in the management of matters of religion by the Jain community. As no matter of religion was involved in it Article 26(b) is not attracted at all.

(16) Before any of the petitioners can complain of the infringement of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 27, he has to show that public funds were spent on the promotion or maintenance of the Jain religion in particular in preference to other religions. The last words of the Article 'for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination' are significant. The impugned programme cannot be said to promote or maintain Jain religion. The expression 'religious instruction' was narrowly construed by the Supreme Court in the D.A.V- College's case, referred to above, to mean 'that which is imparted for inculcating the tenets, the rituals, the observances ceremonies and modes of worship of a particular Sect or denomination'. The trend of the Supreme Court decisions is to confine religion to the essential doctrine and the necessary ceremonies associated with it and not to extend it to secular or cultural activities. The impugned programme cannot, thereforee, be said to promote or maintain the Jain religion- If the provision of facilities for the study of and research in Sikh religion did not amount to religious instruction, then the facilities for disseminating knowledge of Jainism and providing for the study of it will not amount to promotion or maintenance of Jainism. Further, the cultural activity sponsored by the Government of India is a part of a long-range continuous policy not restricted to Jainism. As pointed out by Justice Gajendragadkar(') a perusal of Article 27 makes it at once clear that unlike the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, what this article prohibits is the payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion- Under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States the Congress cannot make appropriations in aid of religious bodies at all,. but under Article 27 of our Constitution what is prohibited is payment of taxes for any particular religion and not for the promotion of all religions generally. This article thus brings out the fact that the secularism contemplated by the Indian Constitution is not anti-god or anti-religion. In the Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swmniar of Sri Shirur Mutt, : [1954]1SCR1005 , the Supreme Court had to consider the levy of a tax the proceeds of which were to be spent on the administration of religious trusts and institutions. Its constitutionality was challenged under Article 27. But the Court repelled the challenge in the following words:-

'BUT the object of the contribution under section 76 of the Madras Act is not the fostering or preservation of the Hindu religion or any denomination within it. The pur- pose is to see that religious trusts and institutions, where- over they exist, are properly administered......... There is no question of favoring 'any particular religion or religious denomination in such cases.'

In Mahant Sri Jagannath Ramanuj Das v. The State of Orissa : [1954]1SCR1046 , the Supreme Court again considered the meaning of Article 27 in the following words :-

'WE are further of opinion that an imposition like this can- not be said to be hit by article 27 of the Constitution. What is forbidden by article 27 is the specific appropria- corporation of the proceeds of any tax in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. The object of the contribution under section 49 is not the fostering or preservation of the Hindu religion or of any denomi- nation within it, the purpose is to see that religious trusts 'Secularism and the Constitution of India', and institutions wherever they exist are properly administered......... As there is no question of favoring any particular religion or religious denomination, article 27 could not possibly apply.'

These decisions would show that it is only the favoring, of one particular religion as against others which is prohibited by article 27. The petitioners do not deny the statement of the Government on affidavit that the Government has been consistently honouring the memory of the great sons of India for the past some time impartially and irrespective of the religions to which they belonged. It cannot be said, thereforee, that the Government is promoting or maintaining only the Jain religion at the expense of other religions. There is, thereforee, no infringement of Article 27 of the Constitution in this case at all.

(17) For the above reasons, the writ petitions are dismissed. No order as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //