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 law.

Debate Summary

Draft Constitution of India, 1948

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 law.

Draft Article 20 was debated in the Constituent Assembly on 7th December 1948. It gave religious denominations and sections the freedom over their affairs, institutions and property.

The debate was relatively short, only two members of the Assembly made substantive interventions. The presence of ‘charitable’ seemed to irk one member. It was argued that the idea of a religious denomination or section, maintaining a charitable institution to benefit its own members, deny the benefit to others was violative of fraternity and single nationality. Would a Christian hospital deny medical treatment to members of other religions?

Another member, who viewed the Article as privileging minorities, said that there was no minority in India, and preferred that everyone, and all communities, be given equal rights, status and obligations.

It seemed like the majority of the Assembly did not engage with the arguments made above and were convinced of the Article’s utility.

The Article was adopted the Constitution with one amendment: the rights mentioned in the provision were made subject to ‘public order, morality and health’