The courts must stop from advising people on their choice of food, clothes, profession or life partners
The verdict of the Gujarat high court upholding the order of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to close down slaughterhouses in its jurisdiction owing to a religious festival and the observation of the Kerala high court denigrating live-in relationships of young people seek to undermine some of the fundamental rights that the Constitution of India guarantees its citizens.
The Gujarat high court, while deciding the petition filed against the decision of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s standing committee to close down slaughterhouses in its jurisdiction between August 24 and August 31, as well as on days of associated festivities on September 5 and September 9 on account of a festival, has stated that the closure of the slaughterhouses was a reasonable restriction and that it violates no fundamental rights.
During the hearing the court had suggested that people can restrain themselves for one or two days from eating non-vegetarian food. The petitioner, however, pressed his case as it pertains to the citizen’s fundamental right.
Article 19.1 (g) of the Constitution of India guarantees the citizens the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business while Article 25 says all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. It lists six reasons for the state to impose reasonable restrictions on these rights which include public order while restricting the right to practise one’s profession; it does not include practice of religion as one. The right to religious practices is subject to, among others, other fundamental rights including those under Article 19.1
The rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution are so fundamental that constitutional courts have generally taken a very dim view of the State’s attempts to interfere with them. In fact, the rights under it takes the citizen as the as the basic unit and every citizen enjoys the same right. The right to religious practice is subject to more restrictions.
The high court’s order militates against the basic tenets of a secular democracy but also opens a can of worms which vested interest can use at their will. A closer reading of Article 25 would reveal that, instead of guaranteeing an absolute right to practice religion, it has offered to ensure that the freedom is equally enjoyed by all. If the high court believes that the rights under Article 19.1 are subject to the right to religious practices, then the executive will have to restrict activities which any religious sect would find inadmissible as per its religious believes or practices. This is unacceptable.
The Kerala high court, while denying divorce to a couple, has observed that present trend “is to break the nuptial tie for flimsy or selfish reasons, or for extramarital relationships, even unmindful of children.” The courts are not called upon to sit in judgment over how two independent human beings conduct their mutual affairs except on whether they break the law of the land. Societies address social issues socially, and the courts have little or no mandate to opine on them.
The courts must stop from advising people on their choice of food, clothes, profession or life partners as long as they do not come in the way of the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution or the law.