The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled that the Right to Freedom of Religion will have to give way to the demands of public order while dismissing a plea which sought a direction to quash a restraint order against taking out funeral processions on a particular route during a temple festival.

Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the restraint order pertains only to the festival period, and was meant to protect public order. “Article 25 of the Constitution states that all are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order.”

The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Sunnath Wal Jamath Pallivasal and Kanni Beebi Dargah of Dindigul which sought a direction to quash the restraint order passed by the district administration. The order restrained them from using a particular route, through Kottai Kaliamman Street in Balasamudram village, while taking out funeral procession. However, the parties could use an alternative route to reach the burial ground during the mandala period of the kumbhabishekam of the temple.

The court said that the restraint order had forbidden funeral procession to all religions. There was no discrimination on the ground of religion as the order was uniformly enforced With an alternative route available, there could not be a complaint as the petitioner could still exercise their right. The executive had only regulated it by keeping in mind the ground realities, the court said.

Dismissing the writ petition, the court said, “India has chosen to tread the path of secularism. The constitution is our grundnorm. The fabric of secularism that has been so carefully woven should not be torn asunder by permitting the right to freedom of religion to trump the demands of public order.”

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