Article 25 of the Indian Constitution: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice
Posted on 09-07-2023

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.

Article 25 of Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion to all individuals. It enshrines the fundamental right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion. This provision reflects the commitment of the Indian Constitution to uphold religious freedom and protect the rights of individuals to follow their chosen faith. In this response, I will provide a comprehensive explanation of Article 25, its historical background, interpretation, scope, limitations, and significance within the Indian legal framework.


1. Historical Background:

The inclusion of Article 25 in the Indian Constitution is rooted in India's long history of religious diversity and the struggle for religious freedom during the colonial era. The framers of the Constitution recognized the need to protect the rights of individuals to freely follow and express their religious beliefs. Article 25 was thus incorporated to ensure that religious freedom is safeguarded as a fundamental right for all citizens of India.


2. Text of Article 25:

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution reads as follows:

"(1) Subject to public order, morality, and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus."


3. Interpretation and Scope:

a. Freedom of Conscience: Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience, which is the right to hold individual beliefs or thoughts without interference. This aspect recognizes that individuals have the right to hold and develop their own religious or philosophical beliefs and to change them if desired.

b. Freedom to Profess and Practice Religion: Article 25 guarantees the right to freely profess and practice any religion. The term "profess" refers to openly declaring or identifying oneself with a particular religion, while "practice" refers to engaging in religious rituals, ceremonies, observances, and worship. This provision ensures that individuals have the right to manifest their religious beliefs in both private and public spheres.

c. Freedom to Propagate Religion: Article 25 also guarantees the right to propagate religion, which refers to the act of sharing or disseminating religious beliefs. This aspect allows individuals to actively promote and persuade others to adopt their religious beliefs. However, the right to propagate religion is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order, morality, and health.


4. Limitations and Exceptions:

a. Public Order, Morality, and Health: The freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order, morality, and health. This means that the exercise of religious freedom should not disrupt public peace, morality, or endanger public health. These restrictions are necessary to prevent the misuse of religious practices that may incite violence, promote discrimination, or pose health risks.

b. Regulation of Secular Activities: Article 25(2)(a) allows the State to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political, or other secular activities that may be associated with religious practices. This provision ensures that the State can intervene when religious activities are misused for unlawful or exploitative purposes, such as financial fraud or political manipulation.

c. Social Welfare and Reform: Article 25(2)(b) empowers the State to make laws for social welfare and reform, including measures aimed at eliminating social evils and discriminatory practices associated with religious institutions. This provision enables the State to undertake progressive reforms within religious institutions, particularly in the case of Hindu institutions, to promote equality, inclusivity, and social justice.


5. Significance and Enforcement:

Article 25 holds significant importance in preserving and protecting religious freedom in India. It upholds the principles of pluralism, secularism, and tolerance, which are fundamental to the Indian Constitution. The enforcement of Article 25 involves both legislative and judicial measures:

a. Legislative Measures: The Parliament has enacted several laws to give effect to the principles enshrined in Article 25. The most notable among them is the Religious Freedom Act, which ensures the protection and promotion of religious freedom and prohibits religious discrimination. Additionally, laws have been enacted to regulate religious institutions, manage religious endowments, and prevent religious conversions based on coercion or inducement.

b. Judicial Pronouncements: The Supreme Court of India has played a vital role in interpreting and upholding the rights enshrined in Article 25. It has consistently emphasized the significance of religious freedom and has issued landmark judgments to protect and promote this right. The Court has also deliberated on the boundaries of religious freedom, striking a balance between individual rights and the interests of society.

c. Challenges and Controversies: The interpretation and application of Article 25 have sometimes been subject to controversy and legal debates. Issues such as religious conversions, practices conflicting with social reforms, and clashes between religious rights and gender equality have presented complex challenges. The judiciary plays a critical role in striking a balance between the rights of individuals and the larger principles of secularism and social welfare.


In conclusion, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, including the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion. It recognizes the importance of religious diversity, pluralism, and tolerance in a secular democracy. Through legislative measures and judicial pronouncements, the Indian legal framework aims to effectively enforce the provisions of Article 25, safeguard religious freedom, and maintain the harmonious coexistence of different faiths in India.

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