INTRODUCTION Secularism is one of the most noteworthy facets of the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the prominent features of the Indian Constitution.Freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of India under Article 25. Article 25 of the Indian constitution provides religious freedom to all of its people and rights to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes; manage the affairs in matters of religion. Nevertheless, in recent days the freedom of religion has been contravened a lot by the judicial interference that led to a series of lawsuits and gave rise to a new question before the judiciary, viz., “How far is the intervention of judiciary justified in the matter of one’s faith, belief and religion?”
JUDICIAL INTERFERENCE Hundreds of lawsuits are filed in our country every year challenging the sanctity of religious practices and traditions. the courts are highly active in resolving the mount of such cases, but how far is this interference valid! The judgment of the SC in the matter of Sabarimala temple, Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. V. The State of Kerala & Ors  is the perfect example of interference of the judiciary in the matter of religion. In this case the five-judge bench of the Supreme court with the ratio of 4:1 lifted the ban from religious customs of Ayyappa Temple,that prevented women of age group between 10 to 50 from entering into the temple. On the ground of untouchability and violation of article 14. But, if we inquire aboutthe tradition of the temple, it comprehensible that excluding certain women of a particular age group from entering the temple has nothing to do with untouchability. Lord Ayappa, who is worshipped in the said templepracticed celibacy, this sheerness brought him the stature of a God. Women who idolized him, voluntarily forbade themselves to approach the temple as it would be disrespectful. Forbidding themselves is nothing but the faith and respect of women, a way of paying homage to their lord. The only dissenting judge of the case was Justice Indu Malhotra. She supported the view that the court must not interfere in the religious matters. In the judgment, Justice Malhotra pointed out that the tradition of exclusion of women wasn’t challenged by any woman or believer but by meddlers who had no concern with this tradition at all. Those who approached the court were not followers but only determined to defy the tradition. She dreaded that claims like this would pile up a heap for non-believers to challenging each and every religious practice. Another instance of judicial intervention in the matter of religious affairs is the case of Nikhil Soni V. Union of India , where Rajasthan HC declared the Jain process of attaining salvation i.e. Sallekhana or Samadhi-marana, illegal and unlawful and declared it equal to suicide. This created a commotion in the Jain community and considered this an intrusion into their religion. Later the judgment was appealed in The Top Court and the judgement was reversed down. Yet another example is the case of Sunita Tiwari vs Union of India and Ors . This is a case in which genital mutilation (circumcision) of females was questioned before the Apex Court under Article 32 claiming that the said practices are violative of the Rights of the Child (provided by the UN) and Article 21 of our constitution. Though it is an age-old tradition among Dawood Bohra community. The matter is now referred to the larger bench, however, just like the case of Sabarimala, here too the petitioner does not have any personal interest in the redressal.
So what must be done? Let the religious groups resolve their matters on their own? Or let the judiciary interfere in the matters of faith and beliefs? If religious matters are left to be decided by the heads of religious groups concerned it can be felonious because some traditions are evil in nature and if the judiciary does not involve in it then it will create more chaos in the society. But in certain instances, the intervention of judiciary in the matters of religion may endanger the sanctity of the particular practice or tradition. The court should not interfere in religious matters just to resolve hues and cries. The court needs to emphasize to find out the nature, importance and reasoning behind the particular custom. And should be concerned to provide protection to the beliefs that are considered integral part of that religion. The court cannot stay ignorant of the beliefs and the logic behind it. The application of the judicial mind to check the accuracy of customs is not always correct. Since the interpretation of the court is different from the beliefs of masses. The court may lack to deal with religious practices and beliefs because of unfamiliarity, and hence should only intervene when any of such practices or traditions seriously hampers somebody else’s rights.
CONCLUSION Even though religious customs and beliefs are not adjudged as reasonable by everyone, constitutional protection should not be denied to them. Here, in the above-mentioned cases, all the customary practices in which the Court intervened were an integral part of the religion. As we noted in case of group) in the temple was an ‘essential practice’ in relation to the prayers and principles. Instances like this creates discontent in society instead of settling discords. There must be some guidelines issued by the court to segregate essential religious practices. Evil traditions like Sati or Johar were abolished because those were un-constitutional. The courtmust interfere into the religious matters when it seriously affects and encroaches someone else’s liberty and rights. There can be formation of tribunal court especially for matters of faith, beliefs and religion which will be properly equipped with the requisites concerned. The interference of judiciary in religious matters is justified if it’s bounded, there is a very fine line of it being fair or unfair.
FOOTNOTES  WP (C) No. 373, 2006.  2016) 2 SCC 725.  WP (C) No. 7414, 2006.