Article 26 and Rights of Religious Denominations

Article 26 and Rights of Religious Denominations

Updated on 15 June, 2019

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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 (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with the law.

What is a religious denomination?

The definition of the religious denomination was clarified based on the Sri Shirur Mutt case. A body to be categorized as a religious denomination, it must have a
  1. Common Faith
  2. Common Organisation
  3. Distinctive Name;
sect or sub-sect of religion is also part of Article 26 due to the existence of the word “section” in the article. In both Sabarimala case and Haji Ali dargah case, the religious denominations in question were denied the rights under article 26(b), because their activities cannot be categorized under the definition of religious denominations for the purpose of article 26(b). Read Also: Article 23-The Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and the Forced Labour.

The relation between article 25 and 26

Initially, it appeared that article 26 is not subject to the restrictions of article 25. But in the case of Sri Venkataramana Devaruand Ors. v. The State of Mysore & Ors, the court declared that article 25(2) has a wider scope of application. And article 26 is subject to the restrictions of article 25. Analysis of article 26
  1. This article includes denomination of any religion, whether it is a majority or a minority religion.
  2. It does not deal with the rights of individual rather it deals with the rights of religious denominations.
  3. The state cannot interfere in the matters of the religion of denominations subject to the grounds provided in article 25(2) (b).
  4. But the state can interfere in the secular activities of the religious denominations and organizations.

Case studies

For a religious denomination to claim the right of maintaining a religious institution, the institution should have been established by the denomination. In Azeez Basha v. Union of India, SC Aligarh Muslim University, Muslims were denied the right to administer the university and was denied protection under article 26(a). because the university was constituted by an act, not by any Muslim denomination. Article 26(b) of the constitution provide for the protection of the right of denominations to manage religious affairs, contrary to article 15 (2)(b), which provides individuals with protection against discrimination. These inconsistencies were resolved by Shirur Matt’s case and Devaru’s case, it was established by these judgments that those tenets and practices of a religion that are basic to the religion fall within its ambit. As a result ‘Essential Religious Functions Test’ was evolved. In Dr. M. Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India, the Supreme Court was dealing with the question of acquisition of the religious property by the State. In this case, the Supreme Court stated that under article 26 mosque, temple and churches are immovable properties and it is not an essential component of religions; thus, the state can acquire immovable properties. Until and unless the place has certain intrinsic value, right to worship at any and every place is not protected under the constitution. Court also held that the acquisition of immovable property of any religion must only be made in the larger public interest under extraordinary situations. Read More Articles: Individual's Right to Religion Under Article 25 Article 24 of Indian Constitution – Prohibition of Child Labour

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