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Bijou Emmanuel Vs. State of Kerala 1986

Bijou Emmanuel Vs. State of Kerala 1986

EQUIVALENT CITATION: 1987 AIR 748

BENCH: Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice R.S. Pathak, Justice V.D. Tulza Purkar

PETITIONER: Bijou Emmanuel and Ors

RESPONDENT: State of Kerala and Ors

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/08/1986

BRIEF

The case “Bijou Emmanuel vs State of Kerala (1986)” is a landmark legal case in India that dealt with the issue of the right to freedom of religion, specifically regarding the wearing of religious attire in educational institutions. Bijou Emmanuel and his siblings, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, refused to sing the national anthem and salute the national flag in their school as they believed it was against their religious principles The case raised important questions about the balance between individual religious freedoms and national symbols. The Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of the students, emphasizing that compelling someone to sing the national anthem or salute the flag would violate their fundamental right to freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The court held that patriotism cannot be forced and that silent respect by standing would be an acceptable alternative. This case established a significant precedent regarding the scope of religious freedom in India, particularly in educational institutions, and continues to be cited in discussions on religious rights and national symbols.

FACTS

In July 1985, three children were expelled from their school after they refused to sing the national anthem of India โ€œJana Gana Mana.โ€ While they silently stood during the morning assembly of the school, they objected to singing because it was allegedly against their religious faith of Jehovahโ€™s Witnesses. Upon expulsion, their father filed a writ petition in the High Court of Kerala State, contending that the expulsion was in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, respectively protected under Articles 19 and 25 of the Indian Constitution. The court dismissed the case, finding that โ€œno words or thoughtsโ€ in the national anthem were capable of offending religious convictions. Pursuant to Article 136 of the Constitution, the father later filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court of India.

ISSUES of Bijou Emmanuel Vs. State of Kerala 1986

Based on the correct name “Bijou Emmanuel v. State of Kerala (1986),” here are the key issues and details of the case:

1. Background: Bijou Emmanuel and his siblings were Jehovah’s Witnesses and refused to sing the national anthem in school, claiming it was against their religious beliefs.

2. Event: In 1985, during the morning assembly at their school in Kerala, India, the national anthem was sung. The Emmanuel siblings stood in silence instead of singing.

3. Legal Action: The school authorities expelled the siblings for their refusal to sing the anthem, citing disobedience and disrespect.

4. Court Proceedings: The case was taken to the Kerala High Court, where the issue was whether the expulsion violated the siblings’ fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution, specifically their right to freedom of religion (Article 25).

5. Judgment: The Kerala High Court initially upheld the expulsion, stating that not singing the national anthem was an act of disrespect to the country. However, the Supreme Court of India overturned this decision.

6. Supreme Court Ruling: The Supreme Court, in its landmark judgment, held that the siblings’ right to freedom of conscience and religion (under Article 25) included the right not to sing the national anthem if it went against their religious beliefs. The Court emphasized that forcing someone to sing the national anthem would violate their freedom of speech and expression.

7. Significance: This case is significant in Indian jurisprudence as it reaffirmed the importance of fundamental rights, particularly the freedom of religion and speech. It established that individuals cannot be compelled to express patriotic sentiments if it conflict with their beliefs. This case is often cited in discussions concerning religious freedoms and the balance between patriotism and individual rights in India.

JUDGMENTS of Bijou Emmanuel Vs. State of Kerala 1986

In the case of Bijou Emmanuel v. State of Kerala (1986), the Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgment that clarified the constitutional rights of individuals in matters of freedom of conscience and religion.

1. Background and Issues: Bijou Emmanuel and his siblings, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, refrained from singing the national anthem during the morning assembly at their school in Kerala. This act was based on their religious belief that their allegiance was only to God and not to any nation.

2. Court Proceedings: The school authorities expelled the siblings, asserting that their refusal to sing the national anthem amounted to disrespect and disobedience. The case reached the Kerala High Court, which initially upheld the expulsion.

3. Supreme Court Judgment: The Supreme Court of India, upon appeal, overturned the decision of the Kerala High Court. The key points of the judgment are as follows:

  • Freedom of Conscience: The Supreme Court upheld that the right to freedom of conscience and religion (under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution) includes the right to refrain from participating in religious or patriotic rituals that one’s religion prohibits.
  • Compulsory Patriotism: The Court emphasized that patriotism cannot be enforced through compulsive actions such as singing the national anthem. It recognized that forcing individuals to express patriotic sentiments through such acts violates their freedom of speech and expression.
  • Tolerance and Diversity: The judgment underscored the importance of respecting diversity in beliefs and practices within a pluralistic society like India. It highlighted that tolerance towards different religious beliefs is essential for harmonious coexistence.

4. Significance: The Bijou Emmanuel case is significant as it reaffirmed the fundamental rights of individuals against state-imposed expressions of patriotism that conflict with their religious convictions. It set a precedent regarding the balance between national symbols and individual rights in India’s constitutional framework. Overall, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case underscored the constitutional principle that while patriotism is encouraged, it cannot be enforced in a manner that violates fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.

ANALYSIS of Bijou Emmanuel Vs. State of Kerala 1986

The case of Bijou Emmanuel v. State of Kerala (1986) is a landmark judgment in Indian constitutional law that addresses fundamental rights, freedom of religion, and the balance between patriotism and individual rights. Here’s a detailed analysis of its significance and implications:

1. Freedom of Religion and Conscience: One of the central issues in the case was whether the siblings’ refusal to sing the national anthem due to their religious beliefs constituted a valid exercise of their right to freedom of religion (Article 25 of the Indian Constitution). The Supreme Court affirmed that freedom of religion includes the freedom to not participate in religious or patriotic rituals that are against one’s beliefs. This interpretation strengthened the protection of individual conscience against state-imposed practices.

2. Protection of Minority Rights: The judgment emphasized the importance of protecting minority rights in a diverse society. It recognized that India is a pluralistic country where individuals from various religious backgrounds coexist. Upholding the siblings’ right not to sing the national anthem demonstrated the judiciary’s commitment to safeguarding minority rights from majority imposition.

3. Limits of State Authority: The case underscored the limits of state authority in enforcing patriotic gestures. The Supreme Court clarified that while fostering patriotism is important, it cannot be compelled through coercive means that infringe upon fundamental rights. This aspect of the judgment highlighted the judiciary’s role in ensuring that state actions are consistent with constitutional principles and do not violate individual freedoms.

4. Judicial Activism: The Bijou Emmanuel case exemplifies judicial activism in protecting constitutional rights. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Kerala High Court’s ruling reflected its proactive stance in interpreting and applying constitutional provisions to uphold fundamental freedoms. This proactive role of the judiciary in safeguarding individual liberties against governmental and societal pressures is a hallmark of constitutional jurisprudence in India.

5. Social and Political Implications: The case sparked debates on the balance between patriotism and individual rights in Indian society. It prompted discussions on the nature of nationalism and the appropriate ways to foster patriotic sentiments without compromising individual autonomy. The judgment influenced public discourse on secularism, tolerance, and the importance of respecting diverse beliefs and practices in a democratic nation.

6. Legacy and Precedent: The Bijou Emmanuel case set a precedent for future cases involving conflicts between religious beliefs and state-imposed practices. It provided clarity on the scope of freedom of religion and the limits of state interference in matters of conscience. The principles established in this case continue to guide courts in adjudicating similar issues concerning religious freedoms and individual rights.

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Shivani Singh
Shivani Singh
My goal is to become associated with a company where I can utilize my skills and gain further experience while enhancing the company's productivity and reputation. Build a legal network learn how to conduct legal research and closely observed how lawyers deal with their legal problems.
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