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Positive Secularism in India

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    2nd Mar, 2022


Argument made in the Supreme Court of India by Senior Advocate Devdatt Kamat stating that India’s secularism is ‘positive’ in nature.


  • Petition has been made in the Supreme Court of India against the decision of colleges in Karnataka banning Hijab.
  • Councilor for the petitioners stated in the Supreme Court that because India follows positive version of secularism, it is important for the state to protect the religious right of the citizens.


  • The Preamble of Indian Constitution aims to constitute India a Sovereign, Socialist, Democratic Republic.
  • The terms Socialist and Secular were added to it by the 42nd amendment.
  • The whole constitution is summarized in the preamble.
  • It is the mirror to the spirit of the constitution.
  • The arrangement of the words in the preamble is also very significant. Indian society is a multi – religious society, it is having different caste, religion along with several religion diversification.
  • So, all these are the divisive factor in some way or the other and if not handled carefully then can cause a threat to the unity and integrity of the nation.

What is secularism?

  • The definition of secularism that came up after the French revolution essentially meant that the State (politics) will maintain distance from religion.
  • This was the result of people of Europe and more specifically the people of France not wanting to be governed by the dictates of the Church in all aspects of life including politics.
  • In the western societies therefore religion is an ‘independent aspect’ of life which is considered to be outside the influence of politics.
  • This is idea of secularism is termed as negative secularism.

India’s version of secularism:

  • Indian version of secularism on the other hand believes in the vedic concept called Sarva Dharma Samubhav.
  • The above concept literally means that the state will be at equidistance from religion.
  • It also means that Indian state is not atheists and believes in existence of religion though it does not favor any particular religion.
  • Indian Constitution, following to the concept of Sarva Dharma Samubhav, places the responsibility of defending the religious rights of the citizens of India on the Indian State.
  • The above is termed as positive version of secularism.

Is the concept ‘static’ in nature?

  • The concepts of secularism are not static; it is elastic in connotation.
  • In this area, flexibility is most desirable as there cannot be any fixed views in this concept for all time to come.
  • The courts decide from time to time the contours of the concepts of secularism and enforce it in practice.

How is the above debate relevant to the current petition?

  • In the current petition, revocation of order banning Hizab is colleges is sought.
  • According to petitioners, wearing hizab is an essential religious practice whose defense falls upon the Indian State including the Supreme Court.

Freedom of Religion in Indian Constitution

  • The Preamble of the Indian Constitution mentions India to be a Secular State.
  • Article 14 to 16 prohibit discrimination against any Indian citizen on the grounds of religion.
  • Articles 25 to 28 of the Indian Constitution mention grant the Indian Citizen Freedom of Religion.  

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