HC: Mention of religion on forms not must

HC: Mention of religion on forms not must

No person in India can be compelled to declare his religion, Bombay high court has ruled.

Hearing a PIL by three residents of Maharashtra, a division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar directed the Union and state governments “not to compel any individual to declare or specify his religion in any form or any declaration”.

The court said that “every individual has the right to claim that he does not belong to any religion and that he does not practice or profess any religion”.

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No one can be told to list religion: HC

Shibu Thomas

Says Need Not Mention It In Govt Forms

Mumbai: No person in India can be compelled to declare his religion, the Bombay high court ruled on Tuesday while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the Maharashtra government to not insist on declaration of religion on official forms and documents.

The petition was filed by Dr Ranjeet Mohite, Kishore Nazare and Subhash Ranaware, who claimed to be members of Full Gospel Church of God, which they said had more than 4,000 members. Though they believe in Jesus Christ, they do not believe in Christianity or any other religion.

They approached the state printing press, seeking to issue a gazette notification that said that they were not Christians and belonged to “no religion”. The state rejected their application forcing them to file a PIL in the HC.

Hearing the PIL, a division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar directed the Union and state governments “not to compel any individual to declare or specify his religion in any form or any declaration”. The court said that “every individual has the right to claim that he does not belong to any religion and that he does not practice or profess any religion”.

The Centre and the Maharashtra government had opposed the petition, saying no reliefs could be granted.

They claimed that “no religion” in official forms cannot be treated as a religion or as a form of religion.

The HC reminded the governments that India is a secular, democratic republic with no state religion.

The court held that no state authority could infringe upon a person’s fundamental right under the Constitution of India (Article 25) of freedom of conscience and freely practicing, professing or propagating a religion. The HC said that if an individual is told by the state to disclose his religion, he can say that he does not practice or belong to any religion.

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