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article imageCourt rules declaration of religion not mandatory for Indians

By Sravanth Verma     Sep 27, 2014 in World
The Bombay High Court in India has responded to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by three individuals and has ordered that the government cannot make it mandatory for an individual to declare his adherence to any religion.
The PIL was filed by Dr Ranjeet Mohite, Kishore Nazare and Subhash Ranaware, who declared that they were members of the Full Gospel Church of God. They claimed that there were 4,000 members in the church, whose members believed in Jesus Christ but not in Christianity as a religion or any religion for that matter.
The three had approached a state-run press to issue a notice in a gazette stating that they were not Christians and adhered to no religion. The printing press however refused that such declaration was not possible.
The court ruled that no Indian could be forced to a mandatory declaration of religion on any official forms and documents. It directed the union and state governments to ensure this. A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar said that the government was "not to compel any individual to declare or specify his religion in any form or any declaration."
The court pointed out that since India was a secular, democratic republic, such a mandatory insistence would go against Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which offered individuals the freedom of conscience to freely practice, professing or propagating a religion.
India is a country with a population of 1.2 billion, of whom nearly a billion follow Hinduism beliefs. However, it is a secular nation and other major religions include Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Jainism.
"The right of freedom of conscience conferred on a citizen includes a right to openly say that he does not believe in any religion and, therefore, he does not want to practice, profess or propagate any religion," the bench said. The court clarified that an individual should be allowed to declare that he adhered to no religion in any forms or documents.
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