Essential religious practices mean all those practices that are fundamental to a religion and not following them would result in the change of religion itself.

The Indian judiciary in several judgements, defined and elaborated on various aspects of essential religious practices. The following are some of the important cases of the Supreme Court of India, elucidating on this area.

To define the essential elements of religion, the supreme court of India laid down the “essential element of religion” doctrine. Before this, the supreme court had to define what exactly is religion, resolve the appeals against the legislations which were labelled as controlling religious institutions, and delimit the boundaries of religious institutions.


Essential religious practices are those that are important to a religion and whose failure to follow them would result in the religion’s demise.

The Supreme Court of India established the “essential element of religion” doctrine to define the essential aspects of religion. Prior to that, the supreme court had to define religion, resolve appeals against legislation deemed to be governing religious institutions, and define the bounds of religious institutions. The Indian judiciary has defined and commented on various aspects of important religious rituals in a number of decisions. The following are some of the most noteworthy Supreme Court of India cases that shed light on this topic.

This doctrine was invented by 7 judgement of supreme Court in shirur Mutt case in 1954. The court held that the term religion will cover all rituals and practices integral to a religion and took upon itself the responsibility of determining the essential and non essential practices of a religion. This doctrine is evolved to protect only such religious practices which are essential and integral to the religion.

How will the state and judiciary regulate secular activity called essential religious practices? 

If the practices are an essential and integral part of the religion then the state and Judiciary cannot interfere in this and decide .

To state an example for easy understanding…

Chanting of mantras in Hinduism is a religious practices which is essential one. So the state and judiciary cannot interfere in this practice. 

In Islam a person prays for 5 times in a day, in this case the state cannot interfere because it is an integral part of Islam.

But if it is a secular practice which is  problematic for women rights , public order, morality and health then there will be the interference of state and Judiciary


  • Women are allowed to enter the Sabarimala shrine:

On September 28, 2018, the SC abolished the ban on women and girls between the ages of 10 and 150 from accessing the famous Ayyappa shrine in Kerala.

It declared the centuries-old practice of hindering religious practices to be illegal and unconstitutional. because women’s untouchability during their menstrual periods is not a requirement of Hinduism This occurred as a result of political practises. As a result, the state and the judiciary have the power to intervene..

  • Entry of Muslim women into mosques:

In April 2019, thus seek directives for permitting Muslim women to enter mosques through the main door and to have visual and aural access to the main prayer space of the Islamic right (‘Musalla).

This restriction act is unlawful and illegal since such activities are not only offensive to women’s dignity but also infringe on their fundamental rights (u/a-14, 15, 21 and 25).

  • Female Genital Mutilation Among Dawoodi Bohras is a true story: 

Sunita Tiwari vs. Union of India and Ors is a Supreme Court case from 2018 that was referred to a larger bench. According to the facts of this case, all females in the Dawoodi Bohra Community were forced to undergo general mutilation, often known as ‘khatna’ or ‘khafd.’ In a writ petition filed under Article 32, the petitioner questioned the constitutionality of the proceedings. This mandatory mutilation was said to be in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.


There is no definition of what constitutes necessary legal practice under the Constitution. The Indian judiciary has taken on the responsibility of determining the many components of this necessity. We might deduce from the profusion of cases that the Indian judiciary has established numerous parts of the essentiality concept. However, one of the important choices, namely the Sabarimala issue, is still unresolved, along with others. This topic is expected to bring much-needed clarity on the junction of important legal practises with Article 13 of the Indian Constitution.







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