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Doctrine of Essentiality


Sarva Dharma Samabhava is an indigenous notion of Indian secularism that arose in independent India under the influence of Gandhian ideology and is also anchored in Hindu culture and tradition. This idea he discovered in the doctrine of sarva dharma sambhava, which can be translated as "equality of all religions" or "equal treatment of all religions." Indian secularism, took on a distinctive form in the Indian Constitution and government. As D.E.Smith put it, "To most Indians secular means non-communal or non-sectarian but it does not mean non religious.” It is not a separation of state and religion, but rather not prioritising any religion, a no preference ideology which, in political reality, meant that no religion should have special rights. This resulted in equitable treatment of all religions and a separation of state and religion in the sense that the state had no religious identity. In contrast to Nehru's preferred definition of secularism, dharma nirpekshata asserts that the state would not be influenced by religious considerations while determining policy.

The Western style of secularism is built on neutrality, which can be viewed as negative secularism consisting of complete separation of state and religion. State-sponsored religious reform has no place under this sort of mainstream secularism. This characteristic derives directly from its idea that the separation between religion and state is a relationship of mutual exclusion.

It has a highly positive connotation, and it does not entail passive non-interference on the side of the state, but rather active engagement to ensure that all religions can grow equally in accordance with the ideals of fairness and equality.

The Indian interpretation of secularism is based on the equality of all religions, not the separation of religion state. The state is supposed to maintain an equal distance from all religions, but it also has the responsibility to encourage social reform to foster equality and justice, and it must act if any religious practises violate these principles.

Secularisation before mere Secularism

It is commonly assumed that secularism follows or accompanies the secularisation of society, or that secularisation is a necessary condition for secularism as official policy. Consequently, a number of academics have suggested that secularism is inappropriate for a society as religiously conservative as India. Secularism does not necessarily indicate that people have become atheists or anti - religious, or that religion has vanished from both the public and private spheres. Religion is only one, and not necessarily the most significant, means by which people comprehend themselves and their relationships. Religion may continue to matter, but the manner in which it matters has altered since past ; when religiosity served as the guiding principle for daily life. With the advent of the age of reason and the age of science, individuals no longer need to depend on a corpus of sacred beliefs, which were deemed beyond the scope of national investigation because to their sanctity, in order to live their lives.

In the case of India, it is crucial to recall that the discussion of secularism has occurred against a particular backdrop: that of social communalization. Not only have communal riots violated the fundamental right to life, to dignity, and to property in a significant manner, but they have also endangered the fundamental right of citizens to live with dignity and to freely practise their religion, as stated in Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

The Doctrine of 'Essentiality'

In recent years, the Supreme Court has made commendable interventions in the realm of religion, despite being opposed by many on the grounds that they violate the higher ideals of equality and justice guaranteed by the Constitution.

The doctrine of "essentiality” has been invented by a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Shirur Mutt case in 1954. The court determined that the term "religion" encompasses all rituals and practises that are "integral" to a religion and assumed the responsibility of assessing which practises are essential and which are not.

The essence religious practise test is a doctrine developed by the court to safeguard just those religious practises that are essential to the religion.


As a secular nation, India has a distinct diversity of individuals who adhere to different religions. Keeping in mind the significance of religion in the lives of people, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom. However, religious activity is also constrained by reasonableness. The word "Reasonable Restriction" defends morality and the law. The idea of essentiality is an example of Indian Judicial innovation that can be described as a byproduct of reasonable restriction. Due to the diversity of our nation, some tough questions are unavoidable in the context of religious freedom jurisprudence, and there is no ideal doctrine to aid us in addressing them. Nevertheless, if the court returns to the original Essential Religious Practices, it could provide a more hopeful framework for moderating and regulating religion-state relations.


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