Unconstitutional Antics

By Mujahid I Mughal

The Constitution is the best book that the Indian society has ever produced. It is a gospel of human rights. It is indeed the reflection of aspirations of a multi-cultural, multi-religious and a multi lingual society. It takes into consideration the diversity of Indian society which no other Indian book can parallel. It is thus the only book that makes India a nation. It is indeed the only book which every Indian would feel proud to call the “National Scripture of India”.

The Indian Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights in Part III, to the Indian citizens, which is indeed our own version of the Magna Carta. Fundamental rights are justifiable. They manifest the beauty of freedom that the Indian Constitution pledges to every individual.  They constitute the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution.

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution makes “freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion” a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens. It makes it very clear that every citizen has the right to practise or not practise any religion subject to “public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part”. The  Indian Constitution guarantees individual freedom to the fullest.

A person henceforth can practise any religion. He or she can also practise the teachings of more than one religion. He or she can practise different religions at different times. A citizen can also practise and preach non-belief in a civilised manner. If any individual changes his or her belief system, that is very much constitutional. It is indeed the individual’s own choice to practise or not practise any religion to any extent subject to what is mentioned in Article 25.

Conversion or reversion has to be examined in the light of Article 25 of the Constitution alone. First of all, let us make very clear the fundamental difference between “Willing conversion” and “enforced conversion”. Keeping in mind Article 25 of the Constitution, nobody should have any objection to wilful conversion of any person belonging to any religion or ideology practising any belief system. Enforced Conversions however must be treated as a heinous crime and should be dealt with strictly according to the law.  Last, but not the least, keeping in mind Article 25 of the Constitution, making any anti-conversion law or stopping people from practising any faith they wish to, amounts to violation of basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

The writer is a research scholar
in the Department of Geography, AMU

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2015 on page no. 2

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