F.S. Nariman, T.S. Krishnamurthy Iyer, K.J. John and M. Jha for the Appellants.
G. Viswanatha Iyer and Mrs. Baby Krishnan for Respondent Nos. I to 3.
P.S. Poti, E.M.S. Anam and James Vincent for the Respondents.
1987 AIR 748, 1986 SCR (3) 518
The appellants-three children, Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to sing the National Anthem: ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as it was against the tenets of their religious faith-not the words or the thoughts of the National Anthem-but the singing of it. Nonetheless, the Appellants stand up in silence respectfully when the National Anthem was sung. Head Mistress expelled the appellants from school on 26 July, 1985.
Appellants filed a Writ Petition in the High Court seeking an order restraining the authorities from preventing them from attending the school. The High Court rejected the prayer of the Appellants, therefore the Appellants appeal by Special Leave to the Supreme Court.
(1) The court held that ‘the expulsion of the three children from the school for the reason that because of their conscientiously held religious faith, they do not join the singing of the national anthem in the morning assembly though they do stand up respectfully when the anthem is sung, is a violation of their fundamental right to freedom of conscience and freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. We, therefore, find that the Fundamental Rights of the appellants under Art. 19(1)(a) and 25(1) have been infringed and they are entitled to be protected. We allow the appeal, set aside the judgment of the High Court and direct the respondent authorities to re-admit the children into the school, to permit them to pursue their studies without hindrance and to facilitate the pursuit of their studies by giving them the necessary facilities. We only wish to add: our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it’.
(2) ‘Art. 25(1) itself expressly subjects the right guaranteed by it to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of Part III, on the other hand, the State is also given the liberty to make a law to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice and to provide for social welfare and reform, even if such regulation, restriction or provision affects the right guaranteed by Art. 25(1). Therefore, whenever the Fundamental Right to freedom of conscience and to profess, practise and propagate religion is invoked, the act complained of as offending the Fundamental Right must be examined to discover whether such act is to protect public order, morality and health, whether it is to give effect to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution or whether it is authorised by a law made to regulate or restrict any economic, financial political or secular activity which may be associated with religious practise or to provide for social welfare and reform.’
(3) ‘The question is not whether a particular religious belief or practice appeals to our reason or sentiment but whether the belief is genuinely and conscientiously held as part of the profession or practice of religion. Personal views and reactions are irrelevant. If the belief is genuinely and conscientiously held it attracts the protection of Art. 25 but subject, of course, to the inhibitions contained therein’.
Appeal allowed with costs to the Appellants.