The Bombay high court has upheld a citizen’s right to claim of “no religion” and asked the government to notify a person’s wish to disown his or her religion.
The order may have ramifications as the government may have to have a separate column in government surveys where information about a person’s religion is sought. It may also result in the government press getting request to notify that they don’t belong to any religion.
The court issued the order while disposing off the petition filed by Full Gospel Church of God which wanted the government to notify that its 4,000 members were not Christians and they belong to “no religion”.
The government press, however, refused to issue the notification claiming that “no religion” cannot be treated as a religion or any form of religion.
The petitioners claimed that the government’s contention was wrong as Article 25 of the Constitution allows a person to choose his or her conscience and religion.
The court agreed with the view of the petitioners and said: “The state has no religion. There is a complete freedom for every individual to decide whether he wants to adopt or profess any religion or not. He may not believe in any religion. If he is professing a particular region, he can give up the reglion and claim that he does not belong to any religion. There is no law which compels a citizen or any individual to have a religion”.
The court also said that the right to conscience allows a person to proclaim that he does not want to practice, profess and propagate any religion and he is an “atheist”.
And added that no authority can infringe on this right of a person and cannot ask a person which religion he belongs to. “He (a person) cannot to be compelled to state that he professes a particular religion,” the court said.
In conclusion, the court said the government press cannot deny a request of a person to declare in a gazette that he does not belong to any religion.