The Supreme Court today referred to larger Bench a petition which sought discontinuance of a Hindu religion based song as a morning prayer in 1,125 Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) across the country on the ground that it was a religious instruction which will create a "lot of obstacles in developing a scientific temperament among the students". The petition insisted that a school or any educational institution funded by state cannot propagate any particular religion.
The bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran observed that the matter required examination by constitution bench and accordingly placed the matter before CJI to constitute bench.
The petition filed by lawyer Veenayak Shah, whose children had passed out of KV, seeks a direction to discontinue prayers during morning assembly in Kendriya Vidyalayas. It further seeks directions "to promote Scientific learning among the students".
Invoking Article 28 (1) the petition said "No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State Funds".
The expression 'Religious Instruction' in Article 28(1) conveys that teaching of customs, ways of worships, practices or rituals cannot be allowed in educational institutions wholly maintained out of State funds, said the petitioner. According to Shah, the common prayer is a "religious instruction" within the meaning of Article 28 of the Constitution of India and should therefore be prohibited.
"This practice creates a lot of obstacles in developing a Scientific Temperament among the students as the whole idea of God and Religious Faith is given immense priority and the same is instilled as a thought process among the students as well. Students as a result learn to develop an inclination towards seeking Refuge from Almighty instead of developing a Practical Outcome towards the Obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life and spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere" the petition said.
Last July, a bench of Justices Nariman and Indu Malhotra had referred to constitution bench the question whether religious functions can be held in public parks maintained out of state funds. The reference was made in a petition seeking permission to hold a religious prayer gathering,'Mata Ki Chowki' in Chanchal Park, Delhi.
1) The right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees protection of life and personal liberty. Further, the Schools have bound the students to recite and conduct the Prayers without giving them a liberty to refrain from the same.
2) Under Article 19 of the Constitution, the citizens have been guaranteed Freedom of Speech and expression and as a result the students shall not be put under any compulsion to recite the prayer or even as to recite in particular manner by folding their hands and closing their eyes.
3) Because immense emphasis is laid down on the recitation of prayer and its importance thus curbing the growth of scientific temperament among students and young minds.
4) The above prayer is being enforced throughout the country in all Kendra Vidhalayas. As a result, parents and children of the minority communities as well as Atheist and others who do not agree with this system of Prayer such as Agnostics, Sceptisists, Rationalists and others would find the imposition of this prayer constitutionally impermissible.
5) The above prayer is based on Hindu religion and it is very different both in substance and form from the prayers of the other religious/ non-religious orientations mentioned above, hence, can the state impose the above mentioned "common prayer" on students and teachers throughout the country.
6) In Aruna Roy & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors. (1996) 3 SCC 212 held the distinction between "Religious Instructions" and "Study of Religions. The Court held that "Special care has to be taken for avoiding possibility of imparting "Religious Instructions" in the name of "Religious Education".
Read The Petition