No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination

Debate Summary

Article 21, Draft Constitution of India, 1950

No person may be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

The Constituent Assembly took up Article 21 for debate on 7th December 1948. The draft article barred the State from imposing any tax on citizens in order to raise funds to promote and maintain a religion or religious denomination

There some confusion in the Assembly about the Article’s meaning – some members seemed to have misinterpreted the Article to mean that religious property was not taxable. Operating under this false understanding, a member argued that religious property should be treated on par with other types of property and should be taxable.

A member intervened and clarified the true meaning of the Article and the motivations behind it. It was pointed out that in Indian history kings often collected a special tax to support a particular religion; this use of public tax money had no place in secular India.

The Article was adopted without amendment.

However, later on, in the revised Draft Constitution, 1949, the Draft Article was tweaked to ensure clarity: the heading was changed to ‘Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination’, and ‘shall’ replaced ‘may’.