Articles Of Faith: 

Articles Of Faith

Supreme Court’s places of worship ruling betrays a selective reading of constitutional provisions.


  • Supreme Court judgment in State of Gujarat v Islamic Relief Committee.
  • SC observed that a “substantial part of taxpayers’ money cannot be granted for repairing religious structures”.

The Case:

  • Under appeal before the apex court was the Gujarat High Court’s directive to the state government to repair religious places damaged during the communal frenzy in 2002 and recovering its costs from those guilty of the devastation.
  • The state government came in appeal to the SC and filed before it a scheme for awarding a small compensatory contribution to the trustees of each of the damaged properties.


  • Interpretation of Article 27 and the omission of any reference to another highly relevant provision of the Constitution.

Article 27:

  • Article 27 proclaims: “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.”

Differing views:

  • SC observed that a “substantial part of taxpayers’ money cannot be granted for repairing religious structures”.
  • However, it is argued that getting a damaged religious place repaired and realising its cost from those who had damaged it shall not be seen as “promotion or maintenance” of religion.
  • And if it is seen, then the quantum of expenditure involved — be it substantial or meagre — must be irrelevant.
  • There is nothing in the language of Article 27 suggesting that the prohibition applies only if the amount spent is “substantial”. Who will determine, and by what criteria, whether an amount is substantial or trivial?

Nature of secularism in India:

  • India does not practise secularism in absolute sense, nor is it mandated by the constitution to do so.
  • The constitution grants every individual citizen of India his/her freedom of religion.
  • However, be it Article 290A or Article 48 — which mandates that the state protect the cow and its progeny — these provisions of the Constitution determine that the nature and parameters of secularism in our country is restricted.

Judicial selectivity:

  • Article 290A obligated the state to pay from the Consolidated Fund of the state of Kerela and the Consolidated Fund of the State of Tamil Nadu every year a fixed sum to the Travancore Devaswom Fund and the Devaswom Fund respectively for maintenance of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories transferred to the state on the 1st day of November 1956, from the State of Travancore-Cochin.
  • This was a religious obligation independent India had inherited from the two erstwhile princely states referred to in the Article as a precondition for their joining the Indian Union.
  • The provision clearly clashes with the general principle of Article 27.
  • It is argued by the author of this article that deciding some cases on the basis of our concept of qualified secularism but invoking the ideal of absolute secularism in some others amounts to a judicial selectivity that does not stand to reason.
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