Judging Religion

Ronojoy Sen

in Articles of Faith

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780198063803
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080168 | DOI:
Judging Religion

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This chapter focuses on a former Chief Justice of India, Prahlad Balacharya Gajendragadkar, who authored several leading judgments on religion, including the Satsangi case. However, there are a few other reasons for this choice. For example, Gajendragadkar has left behind a substantial body of extra-judicial writings, mostly collections of lectures, as well as an autobiography. He also wrote judgments on a host of important issues ranging from labour laws to personal laws to caste reservations. This chapter argues that Gajendragadkar—who was very Nehruvian in his commitment to the marginalization of religion in the public sphere—is a key figure in the tendency to rationalize and ultimately homogenize Hinduism. Gajendragadkar's rulings for the Supreme Court can be analysed as being inspired by what was, for the early decades of independent India, the hegemonic Nehruvian world-view. Gajendragadkar justified social engineering by appealing to the notion of ‘public good’, which meant that the courts became the spokesmen for what constituted ‘true’ religion. This would also result in an implicit homogenization of religion.

Keywords: India; Prahlad Balacharya Gajendragadkar; religion; social engineering; labour laws; personal laws; Hinduism; public good; Supreme Court

Chapter.  12506 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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