Decided on August 04,1992



- (1.)The petitioner-Athiest Society of India, Nalgonda District Branch, prays for issuance of a writ of Mandamus, directing the respondent-Government of Andhra Pradesh, to instruct all the concerned Heads of Departments to prohibit the practice of religious performance of worship al the State functions, such as, during the laying of foundation stones for large, and small projects and inauguration of State buildings or Institutions and exhibiting religious symbols, like Photos or Idols in the State Offices or its subordinate offices.
(2.)The deponent of the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition, claims to be the Secretary of the Athiest Society of India, Nalgonda District Branch. The grievance of the petitioner is that the respondent is not following the secular objectives of the State, as enshrined in the Constitution of India and is practically encouraging religious sentiments by permitting performance of rituals, such as, breaking of coconuts, performing poojas and chanting of Mantras or Sutras of different religions at the time of laying foundations and inauguration of small and large Projects and State buildings and Institutions. It is further averred that public bodies, such as, Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, are freely exhibiting religious symbols in the bus-stations, as well as in the buses. The petitioner asserts that due to such practices, permitted and encouraged by the Government and the Road Transport Corporation, the religious sentiments of the people are roused, leading to communal tensions, resulting in the people quarrelling among themselves and involving in communal riots, and massacres in various parts of the State. The further assertion of the petitioner is that the respondent itself is indirectly encouraging religious feelings for the reasons best known to the Government, by having poojas and other types of ceremonies of a particular religion to be performed in public functions. Such religious rituals at State functions are being shown in Television as well as other public media, including the films exhibited by A.P. State Film Development Corporation in cinema theatres. Apart from encouraging religious sentiments, such acts involve waste of public money and will lead people on lines contrary to scientific temper. The petitioner submitted a representation dated 2-12-1991 to the respondent to discontinue these religious performances at State functions etc., but there was no response to the said representation in spite of a number of agitations and representations being made.
(3.)In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondent-Government of Andhra Pradesh, the allegation that the State is not following the secular objectives enshrined in the Constitution of India, and that the State is encouraging the Departments and other Undertaking to follow religious practices, is denied. It is stated that no rules are framed or circulars issued directing the performance of any such rituals. The State is neither preaching nor encouraging to practice religion in any manner. The understanding of the petitioner of the meaning of the word 'secular' is not correct. Arts. 25 to 30 of the Constitution of India, guarantee the freedom of religion and faith to all citizens and the State cannot interfere with their faith and religion. The petitioner-society has no faith in any religion and God, which itself may be called a 'particular faith', and the petitioner cannot compel the State to interfere with the religious freedom of the citizens by making them to follow the 'faith' of the petitioner-society. Mere participation of the State in such occasions, does not mean that the State is encouraging or canvassing religion. The petitioner cannot invoke Art. 226 of the Constitution of India, for the implementation of the petitioner's 'faith', which is against the provisions of the Constitution. In India, secularism cannot disregard or disown its living links with the history of the country. Humanism and toleration were, by and large, a part of the spiritual, cultural and intellectual ethics in the ancient India. The State is secular in the sense that the Government will not associate itself directly with any religion; but at the same time, every religion and faith are equally honoured and every citizen is free to practice his own religious belief. India is not anti-religious to oppose any religious faith. Secularism represents, in a true sense, universalism and freedom, which are the essential characteristics of secularism. The State is not interfering with the 'faith' of the petitioner-society, which has no right to convert the State from its policy of secularism into 'atheism', which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.

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