(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.

 

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

 

Explanation I.—The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion.

 

Explanation II.—In sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

Debate Summary

Article 19, Draft Constitution of India, 1950

(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.

Explanation. - The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion.

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or preclude the State from making any law-

(a) Regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) For social welfare and reform or for throwing open Hindu religious institutions of a public character to any class or section of Hindus.

 

Draft Article 19 was introduced and debated in the Constituent Assembly on the 3rd and 6th of December 1948. It is the core and gateways provision of the right to religious freedom section of the Constitution.

 

The mention of freedom to propagate religion triggered some conflict in the Assembly. Some members were concerned that it could facilitate conversions – forced and voluntary. Others argued that the propagation of religion did not mean forced or violent conversions. Further, it was noted that the free propagation of religion could lead to different religious communities learning about each other’s religions, thereby promoting understanding and peace.

 

An important strand of the debate centred around the sub-clause which threw open Hindu religious institutions to any class or section of Hindus. A member wanted the scope of the Article to extend beyond Hindus to Buddhists, Jains and Christians. Another member proposed that ‘any class or section…’ be replaced ‘all classes…’ to include a larger range of religious institutions.

 

The Assembly adopted the Article with some amendments.

 

(In 1949, the Assembly passed an amendment that brought Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs)