The Doctrine of Essential Practices

Ronojoy Sen

in Articles of Faith

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780198063803
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080168 | DOI:
The Doctrine of Essential Practices

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This chapter explores how India's Supreme Court has attempted to define religion with respect to the constitution; and second, how the judiciary has drawn a distinction between the sacred and the secular, particularly in the case of Hinduism. Unlike the United States, the Indian constitution combines freedom of religion clauses with a mandate to the state to intervene in religious affairs associated with ‘traditional’ Hinduism, such as untouchability and caste inequality. Some legal scholars have labelled the court's attempts to define what is fundamental to any religion the doctrine of ‘essential practices’. Since the essential practices test has been used, with a few exceptions, to judge the constitutionality of Hindu practices, this chapter primarily looks at the judicial discourse on Hinduism and Hindu practices. It shows how the Supreme Court's use of the essential practices doctrine has contributed to a rationalization of religion and religious practices. This has resulted in the sanction for an extensive regulatory regime for Hindu religious institutions and substantial limits on the independence of religious denominations.

Keywords: India; Supreme Court; Hinduism; doctrine of essential practices; constitution; religion; religious denominations; religious institutions; religious practices

Chapter.  12250 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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