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Sanjib Kumar Chowdhury Vs. Principal, St. Paul's College and Ors. (27.05.1957 - CALHC) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. No. 3009 of 1956
Reported inAIR1957Cal524,61CWN717
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 25, 29(2), 30 and 226;
AppellantSanjib Kumar Chowdhury
RespondentPrincipal, St. Paul's College and Ors.
Appellant AdvocateA.P. Chatterjee, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateSubimal Roy and ;Upendra Chandra Mallik, Advs.
DispositionApplication dismissed
Cases ReferredRirichand v. Manakkal Raman
- .....churches in the city.non-christian students are welcome at the services in the college chapel.all college students are expected to receive religious teaching twice a week during college hours. members of the staff are glad to arrange times for private instruction with any student who may so desire.full liberty of conscience in the matter of personal devotions is given to all students; but no acts of corporate worship which are contrary to christian principles are allowed in the college.2. it appears that inside the college compound there is a christian chapel, but attendance at the chapel is not compulsory. it is stated however that non-christian students are welcome at the services held in the college chapel. the prospectus, inter alia, lays down that admission into the college in all.....

Sinha, J.

1. The facts in this case are shortly asfollows:-- There is a well-known College in Calcutta, known as St. Paul's College, the proper designation being St. Paul's Cathedral Mission College. It is a College which was originally founded in 1865 by the Church Missionary Society, as the Cathedral Mission College at 22, Mirzapore Street. It was reformed in 1899 under the name and style of the Church Missionary Society's College and moved to its present site in Amherst Street in 1908. The present name was adopted in 1914. As stated above, the College was founded by the Church Missionary Society, also known as the Church Missionary Society of Africa and the East. The Society has properties in Africa and the East and so far as Calcutta is concerned, it holds properties through the Church Missionary Trust Association Limited. The Society has permitted the governing body of St. Paul's College to use the land and buildings situate in Calcutta, for the purposes of the said College. The constitution of the College provides that the Church Missionary Society had given free occupancy of the land and buildings to the College governing body on the understanding that they will be used for carrying on the College on the lines which the Society had laid down. The lands and buildings of the College are very valuable and are worth several lacs of rupees. For several years, and even at present, the College receives recurring grants from the Government. It is also admitted that although it is a Christian College over 90 per cent, of the students are Hindus. As I have stated above, the present governing body has been allowed to use the premises for the purposes of running the institution in accordance with the principles and policy laid down by the Church Missionary Society, and it is in conformity with these principles and policy that it has been set down in the prospectus issued by the College as follows:--

Religious Life and Teaching.

There are services in the College Chapel at 8-30 a.m. daily except Sundays. On alternate Sundays there is an administration of Holy Communion at 7 a.m. Bengali Services are held in Holy Trinity Church, Amherst Street, and students are free to attend the Churches in the city.

Non-Christian students are welcome at the Services in the College Chapel.

All College students are expected to receive religious teaching twice a week during College hours. Members of the staff are glad to arrange times for private instruction with any student who may so desire.

Full liberty of conscience in the matter of personal devotions is given to all students; BUT NO ACTS OF CORPORATE WORSHIP WHICH ARE CONTRARY TO CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES ARE ALLOWED IN THE COLLEGE.

2. It appears that inside the College compound there is a Christian Chapel, but attendance at the Chapel is not compulsory. It is stated however that non-Christian students are welcome at the Services held in the College Chapel. The prospectus, inter alia, lays down that admission into the College in all cases implied an undertaking by the student and his parents or guardians, to submit willingly to the rules and discipline of the College. Prior to admission to the College, a student is required to make an application in the prescribed form. The petitioner madean application in the prescribed form and enteredthe College on the 27th June 1955, in the 1st year I. Sc. class. In his application he willingly undertook to submit to the rules and discipline of the College, On the 1st February 1956, 181 students of the College, and on the 10th February 1956, 85 students of the College placed two several memoranda before the Principal of the said College asking for permission to celebrate 'Saraswati Puja' inside the College compound. If this prayer was granted, it would necessarily involve the installation of the idol of the Goddess Saraswati within the College compound, where it is said, there is an available open space which is suitable for that purpose. The Principal of the College has refused to grant permission. Apart from these two memoranda, there have been other applications made from time to time, but the authorities have consistently turned them down, on the ground that in accordance, with the rules of the College as notified by the College prospectus and accepted by the students, and in conformity with the constitution and aims of the College as laid down by its founders, it was not possible to grant the prayer. It is further stated that while full liberty of conscience for personal devotion is given to all students, any worship or ceremony within the College and its hostels contrary to Christian principles cannot be permitted under the College constitution, as not being in conformity with the aims of its founders. This application has been made questioning the legal validity of such refusal.

3. Mr. Chatterjee appearing on behalf of the petitioner frames his case thus. He principally relies on Article 25 of the Constitution, which lays down that subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution, all persons arc equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. He next relies on Article 29(2) of the Constitution which lays down that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. The respondents on the other hand, rely on Article 30 of the Constitution which lays down that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

4. So far as Article 29(2) is concerned, it is clear that there is 110 application thereof to the facts of this case at all. It is admitted that the College receives aid out of State funds, but there is no question of any denial of admission to the institution which is admittedly receiving aid out of State funds. On the oilier hand, as I have stated above, more than 90 per cent, students are non-Christians, and belong to the Hindu community. Mr. Chatterjee argues that if as a result of Article 29(2) there was a legal right in members of the Hindu community to get admission into the College, then they have every right under Article 25 to freely profess, practise and propagate their religion within the precincts of the College receiving such aid including the performance of Saraswati Puja. In my opinion, this is a misreading of Article 25 of the Constitution. That Article grants to a citizen the right to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, but that does, not mean that he could carry out the practices of his religion anywhere he chooses, even on the private property of others, in spite of the objection of the owner. Speaking of the 1st amendment to the American Constitution which prohibits interference by law in the free exercise of religion, Justice Douglas said as follows in a Judgment of the Supreme Court of America, U. S. v. Ballard, (1944) 322 US 78 (86): 88 Law Ed 1148 (A);

'The first amendment has a dual aspect. It not only forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship, but also safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion. Thus the amendment embraces two concepts -- freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but in the nature of things the second cannot be.'

5. The Constitution protects the freedom of conscience and right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, but it does not protect secular activities. In Ratilal v. State of Bombay, : AIR1953Bom242 , Chagla, C. J., said as follows.

'A religion may have many secular activities, it may have secular aspects, but these secular activities and aspects do not constitute religion as understood by the Constitution. There are religions which bring under their own cloak every human activity. There is nothing which a man can do; whether in the way of clothes or food or drink, which is not considered a religious activity. But it would be absurd to suggest that a Constitution for a secular State ever intended that every human and mundane activity was protected under the guise of religion.'

6. As I have stated above, the College has been opened by a Christian Missionary Society, and is being run on what is called 'Christian Principles'. However beneficial or salutary have been the services of Christian Missionary Societies, such services have not been rendered without an objective. Christianity is a proselytising religion and the object of Missionaries in opening institutions of this description is primarily to propagate the Christian religion, and to gain converts, although secondarily it is based on the larger ground of service to humanity. The propagation of religion is effected through such humanitarian services, which are calculated to attract people to the Christian way of living and thinking, but without the application of force or compulsion. So far as Christians are concerned, they form a minority community in India. Under Article 30 of the Constitution, Christian institutions opened primarily for the propagation of Christian religion and secondarily for rendering humanitarian services are within the bounds of law. There is nothing illegal in laying down conditions under which such services can be availed of, provided the conditions do not militate against public order, morality or health. In other words, provided that these institutions and the restrictions imposed therein do not violate ethical principles, or do not subvert public order, morality or health of the people, there can be no objection to laying down restrictions in the practise of religion as could be carried out within the precincts of such an institution. Such an institution could not compel any one to profess or practise the Christian religion, but it can lay down that all religious practices which will be carried out inside its precincts, should be in conformity with Christian principles. To carry the explanation a little further, such an institution cannot interfere with the belief and profession of religion, but it can control the outward manifestation of it within the boundaries of its property. Mr. Chatterjee has argued that so far as Hindus are concerned, their religion enjoins idolatry and it is not possible for them to profess and practise their religion except through this particular form of worship. I regret to say that this statement is both incorrect and superficial. The Hindu religion is an adventurous journey from the form to the formless. The peripatetic soul of a Hindu travels through myriad lives until it can drop the illusion of form. But meanwhile, it may gaze upon the serene face of the Goddess, in whose pure and luminous form is embodied the wisdom of the ages, and in whose hand is the celestial 'Vina', bringing the music of eternity to the ears of those who have ears to hear and the spirit to understand. But such things are only for the initiated. There is no question of thrusting our Gods upon others. Indeed, the Hindu religion, being a non-proseletysing religion absolutely forbids it, and the genius of our Constitution, gives it no encouragement. The students of this particular College have been clearly told in the prospectus that while the practice of individual devotion will not be interfered with, it will not be possible for the College to allow the performances of worship, or as it has been called 'Corporate worship', which it is stated, militates against Christian principles. In other Words, all idol worship is banned within the boundaries of the College. The petitioner entered the College knowing that there is a limitation on the practice of worship within the precincts of the institution. He was not compelled to enter the institution, or to avail himself of its services. But having done so, he cannot turn round and ask the College authorities to violate the basic principles upon which the institution has been founded, and contrary to the principles which have been laid down by its founders. Such action on their part would inevitably result in the Church Missionary Society cancelling the licence to use the lands and buildings, without which the College cannot be run. In other words, there will be a violation of the conditions of the Trust upon which the institution has been granted the facility of using the lands and buildings, without which there can be no College. This Court has no ecclesiastical jurisdiction. India is not a Hindu State, but a secular State, where citizens may be Hindus or Christians or Moslems, but they are equally citizens of the State and their Gods cannot separate them. Consequently, the Court cannot enforce the practice of any religion nor prohibit it, unless it militates against the provisions of the Constitution. Our Constitution, so far as I can see, has been broad-based on absolute tolerance of all religions. In enforcing the Constitution, the Court cannot therefore invade private rights or interfere in the observances of religious scruples and practices, which are not contrary to the Constitution, and are not contrary to ethical principles or declared illegal by any law in existence. Such action would not uphold the Constitution but destroy it.

7. The result is that in so far as this application is intended to force the hands of the authorities to allow idol-worship being conducted within the precincts of the College, it must be declared to be misconceived and consequently rejected.

8. A preliminary point, has been taken in this application, namely, that the petitioner at the time of making the application was a minor. It appearsfrom his application that he was a minor at the time of making the application but during the pendency of the application he has attained majority. Mr. Chatterjee has argued that under such circumstances the application ought not to be dismissed. He has relied on a Madras case, Ririchand v. Manakkal Raman, AIR 1923 Mad 553 (C). I am inclined to agree with Mr. Chatterjee on this point, but I need not decide it finally, in view of my decision on the first point.

9. The application is dismissed. The Rule isdischarged. Interim order, if any, is vacated. I makeno order as to costs.

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