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“FACETS OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: RELIGIOUS PRACTICES & FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION”

right to religion, offences against right to religion
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INTRODUCTION

India is known to be the largest republic in the world. But it’s also known to be a ‘Liberal Democracy’. In the 21st Century, religion and freedom have been seen as two antithetical terms. There’s no point of concurrence in relation to religion, the freedom of expression has been tested in recent times.

In a country with no invariant religion like ours, religion has a profound impact on the political bodies. The concern for religious perceptivity has made a profound impact on the working of the political bodies in India. Indian Constitution considers Freedom of Expression as a cardinal star.

The two terms denomination and freedom are elevated as abecedarian rights under the Constitution. But, when the runner of religious dogmatism is opened it destroys the veritable roof of the constitution. Freedom of expression will continue to remain under siege unless all groups accept that every existent can have a different set of opinions and beliefs, and this is what we lake in our developing society.

 It’s well stated by Justice Chinnappa Reddy, “our tradition teaches us intolerance, our philosophy preaches tolerance, our constitution practises tolerance, let us not dilute from it”.

Violence and religion are two different terms that cannot go hand in hand. Any attempt to disrupt free speech in a healthy republic is simply an attempt to jeopardize the growth of a free mind. Composition 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution provides “Freedom of Speech and Expression”, whereas Composition 25-28 of the Constitution provides “Freedom of Religion”.

The makers have confined these provisions with certain provisions in order to check the misuse. Constitutional makers had envisaged the need to enunciate the necessary provisions to uphold religious freedom and freedom of speech. But, in recent times, the use of these provisions under the constitutional frame has been jeopardized by revolutionist forces.

Annoyance of Intolerance

Rather of being a Liberal Democracy, there’s a swell of dogmatism current around the nation. Lately, the rising dogmatism and unreasonableness have gained instigation around the nation. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proffered the mantra of development and making a prosperous and advanced nation, but these pledges feel to be decomposed.

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Seeing the recent incidents of religious dogmatism to check free speech, similar to the cold-blooded murder of writers like M.M. Kalburgi, Dabholkar and numerous further by Sanathan Sanstha or the lynching in Dadri has created a civil debate over the rising force of unreasonableness. Recent violence in Malda or the self-murder of Rohith Vemula is some exemplification of growing religious dogmatism.
These incidents are the lapses that are lacing the pretensions of development and hampering religious harmony.

The citizens have protested and shown concern for this rising unreasonableness. Numerous poets and writer have returned their awards  (Award Wapsi), a way of protest, to Sahitya Academy. Numerous scholars, writers, actors, luminaries and citizens have raised their voices to this growing dogmatism. Unreasonableness has no religion. The radicalisation of impressionable youth to join the terror groups or Hindu unreasonableness by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its cells doesn’t represent a religious testament.

Their conduct is in direct contradiction to any religious training and indigenous provisions. Due to these violent incidents, numerous feel vulnerable for exercising their abecedarian right of freedom of speech and expression.

There are various provisions bridling the freedom of speech and expression. The Government has supported similar provisions, and checked its cancellation. The provisions of the Indian Penal Code, particularly section 295A of the code.

The misuse of this provision can be better explained by agitating a recent incident. The arrest of Kiku Sharda mimicking Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh during a comedy show has revivified the debate on India’s accumulative speech laws. Section 295A is a variant of ‘blasphemy law’ in India.

The section penalises affronting a religion or religious belief of any class of citizens if a similar personality is offered with the deliberate and vicious intention of affronting the religious passions. The section easily raises a controversial provision that impairs a citizen to exercise his/ her abecedarian right elevated under the Constitution.

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The arrest of Kiku Sharda throws light on the debate of dogmatism, and how religious perceptivity checks one’s freedom of expression. Unfortunately, the Hon’ Supreme Court of India had upheld its constitutionality in Ramji Lal Modi v State of UP,  but a similar observation is fully different to the current situation.

Moment, when we suppose of progressing by administering schemes like Startup India, Digital India etc, the Parliament must take a forward-looking step by scrapping similar outmoded provisions, that are also misused for political intentions.

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Role of Judiciary

Fortunately, the Hon’ Supreme Court of India is a gallant protector of freedom of speech and expression. The feeling of hurt is veritably rampant due to the rise of religious perceptivity. Any picture, play or movie that depicts certain religious practices or beliefs is ever hurtful to that religious section.

Similar exemplifications can be taken from the film ‘PK’ or DA Vinci Code or the musical performance by a teenage girl in Kashmir. The vandalization caused as a way of kick indicates the rise in religious perceptivity. The religious sections demand a ban on those that are considered to be hurtful.

But, the Supreme Court of India with its wisdom has scrutinised similar issues veritably diligently and abandoned similar bans that are intended to check the freedom of a citizen to express his/ her opinion freely.

Taking one similar illustration, the well-known actor Khushboo faced several felonious executions for her comment on the support of adulterous coitus and its frequency in metropolitan metropolises which were considered to be against the ‘quality ‘of the Tamil women.

The Supreme Court quashed the felonious proceedings on the ground that “under our indigenous scheme different views are allowed to be expressed by the proponents and opponents. Morality and crime are far from being coextensive.

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An expression of opinion in favour of non-dogmatic and non-conventional morality has to be permitted and the same cannot be a ground to penalise the author”. The Hon’ Apex Court had taken an analogous stage by quashing the ban on the brief scene of anterior bareness in the movie ‘Bandit Queen’. Thus, the exhibition of a movie is included in the abecedarian right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

In the environment of hurt passions, the Hon’ Court has taken the stage again and again and observed that the standard to be applied for judging should be of an ordinary man with sense and prudence and not of the hypersensitive person who smells offence in every scene or perceives hurt in every statement.

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Conclusion

Despite the fact that courts have taken a judicious stage on several cases, the imminence of religious perceptivity bridling freedom of expression is yet not over.

There are numerous arbitrary and outmoded provisions current in the bills that empower religious forces to misuse it with support from political bodies. Like Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code would have to suffer judicial scrutiny because its constitutionality had been upheld by the five-judge bench.

So, this would be a sluggish process, and it can be held unconstitutional only by the seven-judge bench. There are sedition laws, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, misused by the government bodies to hinder free voices.

In this progressive period, a strong need is felt on whether religious perceptivity is over free expression. To fight similar radicalised testament, a collaborative stage is needed to be taken to hamper similar forces that propagate similar dogmatism in the age of development and global competitiveness.

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