Freedom Of Religion:
After six students were banned from entering a college in Karnataka’s Udupi district for wearing a hijab last month, the row over whether educational institutions can impose a strict dress code that could interfere with rights of students has spilled to other colleges in the state. The issue throws up legal questions on reading the freedom of religion.
- Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
- It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty — which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
- However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
- Over the years, the Supreme Court has evolved a practical test of sorts to determine what religious practices can be constitutionally protected and what can be ignored.
- In 1954, the Supreme Court held in the Shirur Mutt case that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practices “integral” to a religion. The test to determine what is integral is termed the “essential religious practices” test.