|1. Rev. Stainislous v. State of Madya Pradesh
Manohara de Silva, Prasan Gunasena
Y.J.W. Wiayathilaka DSG
SC Determination No. 2/2001
Christian Sahanaye Doratuwa Prayer Centre (incorporation) bill was placed on the order paper of Parliament on 10th May 2001. The constitutionality of these papers was challenged.
The main arguments of the Petitioner were:
SC stated that the case Rev. Stainislous v. State of Madya
Pradesh is applicable to Sri Lanka. In this case the Indian Supreme Court stated that there is no fundamental right to convert a person to one’s own religion as opposed to the right to disseminate the tenets of one’s religion, and that purposely converting a person will infringe the freedom of conscience of all citizens. The Court stated that the rights guaranteed under Articles 14(1)(e) and 14(1)(g) should be kept separate and that combining these two freedoms will result in the infringement of Article 10 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court upheld this argument and stated that the clause in the bill which enables the Corporation to make changes to those rules that were already in force, is also unconstitutional.
(1) ‘The free exercise of these rights is of high emotive significance in a pluralistic society. Any legislative measure which places one religious group at an advantage or which directly or indirectly would permit the conversion by allurement or other subtle means of a person of a particular religion to another would indeed result in social disturbances’.
(2) ‘…the freedom of thought, conscience and religion is not only declared as a right to which every person is entitled to, but also that the right is defined to include the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of a person’s choice. It follows therefore that there should be no fetter in the path of any person in the choice he makes to adopt a religion or belief. The Constitution guarantees to every person that the basic choice he makes with regard to his religion or belief would be taken with complete freedom without being exposed to any undue influence, allurement or fraud.’
(3) ‘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 (1) (e) to manifest, worship, observe, practice that citizen’s religion or teaching.’
(4) ‘The freedom guaranteed by article 10 to every person to adopt a religion or belief of his choice postulates that the choice stems from the free exercise of one’s thoughts and conscience without there being any fetter of allurement which in any way distorts that choice.’ (5) ‘…clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill as presently constituted would be inconsistent with article 10 of the Constitution.’