The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to respond to a plea seeking deletion of a provision in the Constitution that treats Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as Hindus for all legal purposes.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir issued a notice to the ministry of law and justice on a petition that sought implementation of the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.
The panel headed by Justice MN Venketchallaiah had, in its report to the Prime Minister on March 31, 2002, suggested deletion of Explanation II of the Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.
"...The reference Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly," the Explanation II of Article 25 reads.
The plea, filed by Delhi resident Arvinder Kaur, said the provision is in violation of the basic philosophy of the Constitution as it curtails the identity of people belonging to Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion by not recognising them as a separate religion and treating them as Hindus.
Seeking a direction to the Centre to implement the panel's report, it said the provision violates the Right to Freedom of Religion guaranteed under Article 25.
"The petitioner states 'that under all the personal law pertaining to Hindus, the afore stated explanation creates a confusion and has caused embarrassment at a number of occasions among Sikhs, who purport to go abroad or have settled abroad, being Sikhs and declaring affidavits/ presenting documents such as marriage certificate, issued under Hindu Marriage Act or any other document pertaining to personal law, such as adoption, succession, etc, which does not recognise Sikh religion and treats Sikhs as a part of persons belonging to Hindu religion," it said.
The fact that Sikhs and others are not treated by the Constitution as separate from Hindus is causing "immense embarrassment" for Sikhs, it said.