Rev. Stainislaus v, State of Madhya Pradesh).
Manohara de Silva with Bandara Thalagune and W.D. Weeraratne
P.A. Ratnayake ASG, S Balapatabendi SC
S.C. Special Determination No. 19/2003
A Bill titled ‘Provincial of the Teaching Sisters of the Holy Cross of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Menzingen of Sri Lanka (Incorporation)’ sought to incorporate an organization for the purposes of ‘propagation of Religion by establishing and maintaining catholic schools and other schools assisted or maintained by the State and engaged in educational and vocational training in several parts of Sri Lanka and in establishing and maintaining orphanages and homes for children and for the aged (see Bill Preamble). The general objects for which the Corporation is constituted are hereby declared to be- (a) to spread knowledge of Catholic religion; (b) to impart religious, educational and vocational training to youth; (c) to teach in Pre-Schools, Schools, Colleges and Educational Institutions; (d) to serve in Nursing Homes, Medical Clinics, Hospitals, Refugee Camps and like institutions; (e) to establish and maintain Creches, Day Care Centres, Homes for the elders, Orphanages, Nursing Homes and Mobile Clinics and care for the infants, aged, orphans, destitute and the sick; (f) to bring about society based on love and respect for one and all; and (g) to undertake and carry out all such works and services that will promote the aforesaid objects of the Corporation.”
(1) the Constitution does not recognise a fundamental right to propagate a religion. The expression ‘propagate’ has a number of meanings, but according to the shorter Oxford Dictionary it means ‘to spread from person to person, or from place to place to disseminate, diffuse(a statement, belief, practise,etc).’ In the Supreme Court Determination No. 2/2001 it was stated that, “In Sri Lanka the Constitution does not guarantee a fundamental right to ‘propagate’ religion as in Article 25(1) of the Indian Constitution. What is guaranteed here to every citizen is the fundamental right by Article 14(l)(e) to manifest, worship, observe, practice that citizen’s religion or teaching. ”
(2) Although it is permissible under our Constitution for a person to manifest his or her religion, spreading another religion would not be permissible as the Constitution would not guarantee a fundamental right to propagate religion. Even in situations where propagation is treated as a fundamental right enshrined in a constitution, the entitlement has not extended to convert another person to one’s own religion as that would impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience. (Rev. Stainislaus v, State of Madhya Pradesh).
(3) Similarly when there is no fundamental right to propagate, if efforts are taken to convert another person to one’s own religion, such conduct could hinder the very existence of the Buddha Sasana. What is guaranteed under the Constitution is the manifestation, observance and practice of one’s own religion and the propagation and spreading Christianity as postulated in terms of clause 3 (states that the corporation is constituted and declared to be, to spread knowledge of catholic religion and to impart religious, educational and vocational training to youth.) would not be permissible as it would impair the very existence of Buddhism or the Buddha Sasana.
(4) Since the material contained in this provision is inconsistent with Articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution we make a determination in terms of Article 123(2) of the Constitution that the Bill comes within the purview of Article 83(a) and therefore it is required to be passed by the special majority as provided for in Article 84(2) of the Constitution and approved by the People at a Referendum