4 Oct 2010

No 'public interest petition' for entry into temple: High Court

In a recently reported decision [Lalitha Vasudevan v. State of Kerala, AIR 2010 NOC 867] a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court declared that no public interest petition could be entered by a court by a person seeking entry of another into a temple. The petitioner had approached the High Court seeking a writ of mandamus directing Guruvayoor Devaswom Board not to prohibit another named person from entering Guruvayoor Temple to worship observing Hindu religious rites contending that he "is a devout Hindu and that there is no law prohibiting such a person from entering Guruvayoor Temple observing all rites of Hindu religion and that there is no law made by the second respondent Government of Kerala preventing those who believe in Hinduism from entering Guruvayoor Temple and worshiping according to Hindu religious rites". 

The High Court, dismissing the petition with costs, observed inter alia as under;
3.Article 25(1) of the Constitution provides that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. The right to profess religion is the freedom to have one's belief and the right to even avow publicly; to make an open declaration of one's belief. See Punjab Rao v. Dr.D.P.Meshram [AIR 1965 SC 1179]. The right 'freely to profess' is akin to the freedom of thought which emanates out of freedom of conscience. A survey of the constitutional provisions would show that no restriction whatsoever is placed on the freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. For, conscience and mind which generate thoughts, ideas and beliefs are essentially elements over which no law could be made. The society would be invaded by the conscience or thought of an individual only when ideas generated by them get transformed into words or actions. The Constitution and the laws can regulate only what may flow out of the conscience or mind, as words or deeds. When one has the freedom of conscience and in exercise of that, he has a particular belief, he will have the right to profess that as a religion, provided, by professing such religion, he shall not act in any manner violating public order, morality and health or any other provisions of Part III of the Constitution. Practice of religion proceeds from such right t profess religion. Religion is a matter of faith. The right to propagate religion is one's right to spread; to disseminate or diffuse; from person to person or from place to place; a statement, belief, practice etc. This meaning of the word 'propagate' was adopted by the Apex Court in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh [AIR 1977 SC 908] to enunciate the scope of the word 'propagate' in Article 25(1) of the Constitution. The Apex Court clearly stated that this right is to transmit or spread one's religion by an exposition of its tenets and does not amount to granting a right to convert a person to one's own religion.
4.The aforesaid concepts of 'professing' and 'propagating' religion clearly show that the right of a person to profess and propagate religion does not include the right to insist that a third person be permitted to act in terms of a particular religion and its tenets. The right of the petitioner to freedom of conscience and her right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion in connection with her faith in religion, attendant to Guruvayoor Temple, cannot be mixed up with any similar right that Sri.K.J.Yesudas may claim, if he needs. We are clear in our mind that the petitioner cannot make the question of entry of Sri.K.J.Yesudas into Guruvayoor Temple as a justiciable one as part of the petitioner's right to propagate religion. By filing this writ petition, the petitioner is trying to extend to Sri.K.J.Yesudas an unsolicited aid, which even he may not relish, since belief is one that is purely personal and cannot be foisted on another and anyone aggrieved by any encroachment into the freedom to freely profess, practise and propagate religion has the guaranteed fundamental right to protection of such entitlements and hence to remedy in case of violation. Sri.K.J.Yesudas may profess or practise a religion, belief or faith. But, his doing so or his inability to do so cannot be referable to an issue falling within any right of the petitioner to propagate a religion of her choice. We do not, therefore, find any shred of right in the petitioner to sustain this writ petition. 

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