The word pluralism is preferable to secularism as the former denotes the happy harmonious existence of multiple religions, opines VINOD KUMAR SONKAR
Following are the features of Indian secularism:
1. The state should not have any religion of its own.
2. All the religions shall be equally protected by the state.
3. Free exercise of right to freedom of religion.
4. State shall not discriminate against any particular religion. It means that the state shall not prefer, favour or disfavour any particular religion viz-a-viz others.
5. Religious tolerance.
Indian secularism is not founded upon the principle of “separation of the state from religion.” Even then, there are certain provisions in the Constitution which explicitly direct the state to strive for the separation of the state from the religion. The word pluralism is preferable to secularism as the former denotes the happy harmonious existence of multiple religions.
The American or communist pattern of secularism is not practicable in India. People in India have always been deeply religious though the state as a whole has always been secular. When the nation enacted constitution for itself in the year 1950, the founding fathers were well aware of the consequences of Communist “anti-religious” secularism and American “indifferent state” secularism. After the partition of India, in spite of the unprecedented riots, a large chunk of religious minorities opted to stay with India. Hence India still remained a country with multiplicity of religions. The founding fathers of the Constitution of India had to ensure the harmonious co-existence of multiple religious faiths. Hence they enacted the secular Constitution.
Secular Provisions in the Indian Legal System
The secular Provisions under constitution of India are as follows:
– This is related to right to citizenship which is purely a secular matter. Thus “every person” who has a domicile in Indian Territory and (a) who was born in the territory of India (b) either of whose parents was born in India or (c) who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement, shall be a citizen of India. In deciding the question as to whether a particular person is a citizen of India or not; an inquiry into his/her religion shall be irrelevant.
– Equality before law and equal protection of law. It is also available to every citizen of the country irrespective of his religion, caste, race, language or place of birth.
– State shall not discriminate against any person on the grounds of religion, caste, race, language or place of birth.
– Equal opportunity relating to employment or appointment to any public office under the state. State shall not discriminate on any of the aforesaid grounds.
– Fundamental freedom of speech and expression, to form association or units, to move freely throughout the territory of India to reside in any part of the country and the profession of any trade, business or occupation. No discrimination by the state on any of the aforesaid grounds.
– Equal rights to all citizens against double jeopardy and compelled testimony. No discrimination on the aforesaid grounds.
– the most fundamental right to life and personal liberty. No person shall be deprived of it, except in accordance with the due procedure, established by law. No discrimination on the aforesaid grounds.
– Fundamental right against traffic in human beings and forced labour. No discrimination on the aforesaid grounds.
– Right against employment in hazardous industries. No discrimination on any of the aforesaid grounds.
– Uniform civil code for all the citizens of the country.
Penal provisions which protect communal harmony
Chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code is exclusively devoted to uphold secularism.
– Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention or knowledge and thereby causing insult to that religion, he shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years. It is a cognizable and non-bailable, non-compoundable offence.
Section 295 (a)
– Whoever with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both. It is also cognizable and non-bailable and non-compoundable offence.
– Disturbance to an assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremony, is cognizable but bailable, non-compoundable offence.
– Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or any place set apart for the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for any remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any person assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for the term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both.
– Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with the imprisonment of one year or with fine or with both. This is non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable offence.
Representation of People Act, 1951
: It provides that appeals made on the ground of religion to gather votes in elections shall be deemed to be a ‘corrupt practice’ under section 123 (a) of RP Act, 1951 and such candidate would be disqualified on this ground.
Section 125 of RP Act, 1951
: any person who in connection with an election under this act, promotes or attempts on the ground of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different closes of the citizens of India, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both.