September 27, 2023

Can courts interfere in matters of faith and religion


Can courts interfere in matters of faith and religion? Religion undoubtedly has been one of the most sensitive genres of discussion among the masses since the time of its inception. When I was little my mother would usually make me accompany her to grand satsangs, hosted by influential families, where I would hear the head preacher say, “If you have faith in God, you must surrender your logic unto him”.

No doubt I was too young to measure the depth of those words then, but today as I scroll through my social media or turn on my television, I am petrified to acknowledge the fact that the land where I live has such an abundance of faith that it has truly surrendered all of its logic & rationale to religion.

It is a universally known truth that, no religion professes ideologies of violence and that, its only rational function is to provide solace in the hour of chaos. While religious conflicts are nothing new to the Indian soil and where people are still shedding blood on the pretext of protecting one’s religion, it is evident that the latter in return has been miserably failing at fulfilling it’s only objective – “providing solace”.

It is ironical to hear, that according to a 2018 Report of WHO, India ranks 6th amongst the most depressed countries of the world while being home to more than five religions and consisting of a religion crazed population whose faith in God is so strong that they are willing to sacrifice their rights in the name of religion. Clearly religion has failed to fulfill its duty, at least in India.

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Can courts interfere in matters of faith and religion?

In the same year (2018), the Sabarimala case rekindled the question of courts interference in matters of faith and religion when a five judge bench of the Supreme Court in its verdict allowed the entry of women of all ages in the revered shrine. Unfortunately this judgement could not be implemented as there were strong protests from various groups of the society , as a result of which a review petition was filed in the Supreme Court. India is a country which follows the rule of law; professing a rule that there should be supremacy of law and not of any man or religion because of which we enjoy Article 14 (right to equality) unhindered.

The Sabarimala issue is just an example of how the very foundation of justice and equality has been trampled upon using the veil of religion. Graver issues like FGM ( Female genital mutilation) in the Dawoodi Bohra community, bar on entry of Muslim women into Mosques and ban on entry of Parsi women married to a non-parsi man in their religious places still haunt the society or at least the “women” of the society to this date.

Even in today’s India-an India whose population boasts about welcoming liberal ideologies, the above stated issues do not hint a trace of injustice and inequality. And the only reason behind such ignorance is “religion”. It is only when we take away the “temple” from Sabarimala or the “divine order” from FGM and other related issues, we find gross gender discrimination glaring back at today’s liberal India.

This brings me back to the question “Can courts interfere in matters of religion and faith” Yes, they can; although some people might not believe courts to be proper forums that are competent enough to challenge the “divine rules” set by a religion, it is the duty of the judiciary to uphold justice and make sure that there is no perversion of rule of law to the rule of few and to make sure that the society does not plunge into anarchy.

When a person’s right of movement is restrained, merely on the basis of their gender or when a girl’s genitalia is mutilated without her consent for which she has to suffer miserably for the rest of her life; because she has to be proven a “pure virgin” to a man who has the permission to rape her at the tender age of 10 or 11 on the pretext of marriage, is a violation of every possible right that the child or woman possesses and a mere facade of faith and religion should not be permitted to bar the judiciary from deciding on such heinous practices.

Religion and faith are subjective and vary at a personal level, they should be kept separate from the rights of an individual only then will we learn to empathize on the basis of humanity instead of religion and only then true justice can be served.