The Idea of Secularism in India

By: Aaditya Sinha

The preamble of India talks about five terms that define our Constitution as well as what our constitution expects from us in these five words. Sovereign; Socialist; Secular; Democratic and Republic: out of these five terms, one term which is the most talked about is the term Secularism.

We all hear this term everywhere, every day, and almost every time. If you still have doubted you can start your TV set and see that everybody is just talking about Religion and Secularism or “pseudo-secularism”, a new term devised for the people who call themselves “Secular” but really are not. But the question is, why everyone is talking about this term so consistently?

Secularism, as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the “indifference to, or rejection or exclusion of, religion and religious considerations”. So by one of the definitions of Secularism, we are clear for one thing that a Secular state is a state where a specific religion is not followed and is promoted. Everyone is not bound to follow that religion even if you belong to that religion.

The idea of secularism in India comes from the very first page of the constitution or to simplify that the Preamble itself talks about the idea of Secularism, but the thing is that secularism is not that linear or one noted concept in this vast country where there are so many cultures ethnic groups and of course “religion”. The idea is that although India says that it is a Secular country but it gives the concept of personal laws to every religion.

Although the Uniform Civil Code is there in the constitution, it is in the directive principles of the Indian Constitution. Keeping in view the above thoughts this case holds importance:Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors v. State Of Kerala & Ors[1].

One morning in a school, there was an assembly, one teacher noticed that two students were not actually singing the national anthem and he decided to sue them in the court for not singing the national anthem of our country. The High court eventually said that the two boys were actually disrespecting the National anthem and it was an offense through the National Honour Act, 1971.

However, the verdict of the Supreme Court actually gave a very strong case and strong point. The court said that according to Article 19 of the Constitution all the citizens have a right of freedom and speech and expression, and right to “not to speak” is also an implied right according to article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The court said that the students were not singing the national anthem because they belong to the Jehova community, and in their community other than their religious songs no one is allowed to sing any other song, and since the two boys were standing during the National Anthem was itself a sign of respect which the two boys were showing towards the National Anthem, according to National Honour Act, 1971.

[1] Bijoe Emmanuel & Ors v. State Of Kerala & Ors. 1987 AIR 748.

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