Religious Rights in times of Pandemic
Authors: Shrirang Ashtaputre and Aniruddha Awalgaonkar, Students, ILS Law College, Pune, India
The outbreak of COVID-19 had brought the world to a standstill – nearly every facet associated either directly or indirectly with humanity is experiencing stagnancy owing to the administrative decisions of initiating a nationwide lockdown for assuring social distancing. This played a crucial role in isolating the virus and curbing its spread, thereby helping reduce the rate of infection and consequently deaths. Such nationwide shut-down in India was an output of the failure of the State authorities to impose stricter social distancing regulations for controlling the spread of this disease and the non-cooperation of the citizens for treating the pandemic lightly. Especially, the lackadaisical attitude of the organizers of Tablighi Jamat, a religious movement of Deobandi form of Islam for continuing the religious congregation despite the administrative orders punishing social gathering has been a great factor for the drastic increase of infections and death throughout the country. More appalling is the adamancy of Hindus in Prayagraj, part of West Bengal, Kalburghi and even Ayodhya for amassing in large numbers at Holy Places for celebrating their respective religious festivals amidst the lockdown. The said events showcase how Indians place their religious interests above public health even during the course of the Pandemic and unknowingly, exceed their scope of Fundamental Rights so enshrined in Article 25 and Article 26 of the Constitution of India, 1950. Stating several case laws for proving how the aforesaid manifestation is in violation of public health, the Authors, through the medium of this Paper shall explain the aforesaid events in depth and the scope of Freedom of Religion and the Rights of Religious Denomination in India for concluding the extent to which they can be practiced during the prevailing crisis. Reliance shall also be placed on International Cases for concluding the limitations on religious freedoms against public health at the global scenario, further praying the authorities to be more vigilant with regards to such events and the masses to be aware and complicit with the effort of the Government for mitigating this natural calamity.
Keywords: Religious Rights, Coronavirus pandemic, public health
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