Religious Practises versus State LawSupreme Court has upheld the order of the Allahabad High Court that has upheld the UP government order of dismissing a Muslim employee for marrying a second time before annulling his first marriage and without seeking departmental permission, as mandated by the Service Conduct Rules of the state. The petitioner had challenged the Service Rules on the grounds that they interfered with the permission granted by his faith to marry more than once and were hence in violation of Article 25 of the Indian constitution.
By Sunil Garodia
The apex court was of the opinion that despite there being several cases on these lines decided by the High Courts, such matters had not come to the Supreme Court because of the futility of the exercise. The Court was of the opinion that Article 25 allows the government to enact legislation despite religious permission in order to protect or uphold public order, health and morality. Citing several High Court judgments, the court opined that what was permitted but not mandated by any religion could not be cited as a ground to rescind any state law that was enacted for public good.
In the instant case, the Court said that although Muslims were permitted to marry more than once by their religion, it was not mandatory for them to indulge in polygamy. It was not as if the scriptures asked each and every Muslim male to marry four times. Also, the Service Conduct Rules were clear in stating that no employee could marry again before annulling his first marriage and without seeking permission from the department.
Hence, the Court dismissed the petition as the petitioner had broken the Service Conduct Rules. As for the challenge to Article 25, the Court was categorical in stating that the State always had primacy to enact laws. These laws were always supreme where something was allowed by religion but was not mandated for the followers. Citizens could not hide behind religious practices to indulge in something that was expressly prohibited by any state law. Hence, it did not find that the UP Service Conduct Rules violated Article 25 in any way.