Reminding the central government authorities that India is a secular country, the Delhi High Court has observed that missionary activities are not prohibited as fundamental right to religion is not restricted to citizens, but is available for all persons,
In this case, a Doctor’s OCI card was cancelled by the authorities on the ground that he suppressed the real purpose of his visit to the country to carry out evangelical, medical missionary and conversion activities. The authorities had termed that such activities are against the interest of general public leading to unrest and law & order problems.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru also held that a person has a right to practice his faith and his rendering medical service, even if it is for furtherance of his religion, cannot be denied. The Court also added that the assumption that missionary activities are against the law of the land, are fundamentally flawed. The Court also observed that is no material to hold that the Doctor was indulging in conversion activities or any of the activities has led to public unrest and law and order problems.
The Judge said: “It has perhaps escaped their attention that India is a secular country. All persons in this country have a right to practice their faith in the manner they consider fit so long as it does not offend any other person. If the petitioner’s faith motivates the petitioner to volunteer for medical services at a hospital, there is no law (certainly not of this land) that proscribes him from doing so.”
The Court mainly referred to judgment in Commissioner of Police and Ors. Vs. Acharya Jagadishwarananda Avadhuta, which had held that the right under Article 25 is not confined to citizens alone, but covers all persons residing in India.
The court said: “It is clear from the plain language of Article 25 that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and have the right to profess, practice and propagate religion. Article 25 is not restricted to the citizens of this country but is available to all persons.”