Acharya Jagdishwaranand v. Commissioner of Police, Calcutta

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 20/10/1983

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Misra Ranganath, P.N. Bagawathi, Amendra Nath Sen.

REFERENCE: 1984 AIR 512

PARTIES

Petitioner: Acharya Jagdishwaranand

Respondent: Commissioner of Police, Calcutta

SUBJECT: The case revolves around the question of whether Tandava dance performed by the Ananda Marga group in streets forms an essential religious practice under Article 25 of the Constitution of India?

FACTS: The petitioner belongs to the Anada Marga religious group. They perform Tandava dance on streets with skulls and knives in hand. Calling it to be against public morality the Police department issued orders under section 144 of CrPC. The petitioners initially approached the HC under Article 226 to direct the respondents to not obstruct their Tandava dance performance. However, the petition was dismissed therefore the members of the Ananda Marga group filled a case in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution stating that the Police department violated their rights under Articles 25 and 26.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

The Indian Constitution

  • Article 25(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, practise and propagate religion.
  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
  • Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right
  • to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
  • to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
  • to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
  • to administer such property in accordance with law
ISSUES:
  1. Whether Ananda Marga form a religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution?
  • Whether performance of Tandava dance in streets an essential religious practice under Article 25 of the Constitution?
JUDGEMENT:

The petitioner in the instant case contended that,

  • They form a separate religious denomination under Article 26 of the Constitution and therefore the State cannot interfere in their administrative matters.
  • Tandava dance is an essential religious practice under Article 25 of the Constitution for Ananda Margi’s therefore they have complete rights to perform the dance in private and public.

Rebutting the arguments, the respondents contended that,

  • Performance of the dance in streets creates a lot of hindrances to the general public.
  • Also, carrying sharp objects and those which are scary in nature like skull will lead to
public disorder.

Upon hearing the parties to the case the Court held that, the Ananda Marga group is a part of the Hindu religion and does not form a separate religious denomination under Article 26 as the writings of the founder of the Ananda Marga group has the essence of Hindu religion. Further they belong to the Shaivaite group of Hindu religion which gives us a clear conclusion that, it is a definite part of that religion.

The Court further went on to clarify that, performance of Tandava dance in public i.e. in streets is not mandatory. However, they may perform the dance in private. Also, the orders issued by the Police department under section 144 of CrPC was only against carrying of weapons during the dance and not the dance per se.

CONCLUSION: The rights guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 are always subject to public order, morality and health. Since Tandava dance performed by the petitioner’s group in the present case was against public order and morality the Court obstructed their performance in public.  However, they were permitted to perform the dance in private.

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