Fundamental Right to Religion in India amidst COVID -19
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I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”[i]Freedom of religion was one of the most undermined fundamental rights during lockdown. Article -1 of “The U. N. Charter”[ii] encourages for the religious freedom to all its member nations. People follows their religions for their whole life believing that they would get salvation after their death and keep walking upon the path shown by their religion or idol of their religion. It is believed that there is nothing but religion goes with the man even after his life. “Lost people matter to god, and so they must matter to us”[iii]. “The rights of a dead hold more weight than a ruler, because that is the weight of divine law”[iv]. After the death of a person, his body departs from his soul and the body is buried or cremated as per his religious last rites. Although the dead person is no more living human being, still the body have some fundamental rights belongs to his religion, which he was professed during his life.
This paper generally broadens the scope of ‘person’ defined in various statutes to include dead persons in it and specifically it includes ‘right to decent burial or cremation’ and ‘right to human dignity after death’ in Article -21 of Indian Constitution i.e., ‘Right to life’. In this paper, the development of religious freedom in regards to last rites of a dead from the ancient Greek period to today’s democratic & socialist approach is streamlined through the waves of international treaties, conventions and landmark Supreme Court & High Court’s Decisions. Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy said that, “Introducing religion into politics is to introduce an impermissible element into body politic and an imbalance in our constitutional system”[v]. Still, right to life is considered top most fundamental amongst all other religious rights by majority of courts, specifically in emergency conditions like Lockdown. More than hundred countries across the world have implemented lockdown as a tool of last resort and worldwide people managed to perform religious rituals and prayers for an end to spread of corona virus from their home only and for them, deferring all religious services seems like an emblem of lost chance to sigh, to breathe and to gather together.
Several operations & missions initiated by the state to curb this pandemic and the process of vaccination is also initiated all over the world. Social media proves like blessings in disguise during lockdown. Perhaps this lockdown remains helpful to encourage the states for balancing religious freedom along with other human rights.
[i] Rev. Robert Sinker, Candle in the dark – The authorized biography of Ion Keith Falconer (The Arab
World Pioneers, 2016).
[ii] The Charter of The United Nations, 1945.
[iii] Keith Wright, The Global Church of The Nazarene – Issue 92 Engage Magazine (Engage Publications,
Kansas, U.S., 2015).
[iv] Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at ColonusTranslated by Robert
Fagles, (New York: Penguin, 1986).
[v]S. R. Bommai v. Union of India 1994 AIR 1918, 1994 SCC (3) 1 para 310.
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