Court cannot impose any Policy for Religious Education in Schools upon the State

Allahabad High Court: Deciding a public interest litigation praying that the Union of India and State of U.P. be directed to introduce compulsory religious education from Class I to the post-graduate level and also provide for a syllabus for research of such education, the Division Bench comprising of Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Dr Vijay Laxmi, JJ. in their separate judgments observed that the Courts cannot impose upon the State a particular policy for imparting any form of religious instruction or education about religion and it is for Parliament or the legislative assembly concerned that has the competence to do so. It is the appropriate government which has to decide as a matter of policy to introduce the imparting of religious education and the manner of such imparting is for the expert bodies to recommend.

A prayer was also made that the respondents be restrained from granting recognition to institutions if there is no sufficient provision for imparting religious education and that the prescription of the syllabus should also include different aspects of Islamic religion including the advent of Islam and encourages the study of Islamic literature as a source of Islam. Additionally a prescription has been sought for introducing Hindu religious scriptures in the syllabus which would lead to peace in society and foster harmony between people believing in different religions. The petitioner’s thrust is that the shadow of doubt would all be cleared by the process of learning and therefore it is necessary to invoke State action to promote education about different religions.

In a separate judgment, Vijay Laxmi, J. observed that “Our experience of more than 65 years reveals that ‘secularism’ cannot be practiced by adopting a complete neutral approach towards religions but by a positive approach by making people to understand and respect religion and faith of another section of people. Based on such mutual understanding and respect for each others religious faith, mutual distrust and intolerance can gradually be eliminated.” The Judge also observed that “We must civilize the human heart. Education of the emotions and discipline of the will are essential parts of a sound system of education. Religion is a permeative influence, a quality of life, an elevation of purpose. Our institution, if they are to impart religious vitality, should have simplicity and an atmosphere of consecration that permanently influence lives. We must civilize the human heart. Education of the emotions and discipline of the will are essential parts of a sound system of education. Religion is a permeative influence, a quality of life, an elevation of purpose. Our institution, if they are to impart religious vitality, should have simplicity and an atmosphere of consecration that permanently influence lives.”

The petition was dismissed in view of the judgment in Aruna Roy v. Union of India, (2002) 7 SCC 368 wherein it was held that this Court can enforce constitutional provisions and laws framed by Parliament. It cannot, however, compel that a particular practice or tradition followed in framing and implementing the policy, must be adhered to. [Hindu Front for Justice v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine All 681, decided on August 19, 2016]

One comment

  • I find it interesting that religious education is left up to the school’s discretion. I want my kids to be raised with strong Christian values that will help them throughout their lives. I can only hope that they will be able to receive such instruction in school.

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