Research

This project seeks to understand how government restrictions imposed during COVID-19- and more specifically judicial involvement of the Indian High Courts- impacted religious liberties in India. For this study I analyzed a number of judgements made by the courts that demonstrate how judicial authorities interpret the Government of India’s response to COVID-19 with respect to religious freedoms, how the courts influenced religious practices, and where the courts stand regarding the constitutionality of the restrictions on religious freedoms. I argue that the courts strongly support imposing these restrictions in the interest of public health, which takes priority over religious freedom according to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. Furthermore, the cases outlined in the course of this study will show that there exists an inherent tension between India’s judicial authorities and the state and federal governments, largely due to the court’s perception that the government ought to take a stricter stand in placing these restrictions instead of its relatively passive approach. One instance of this tension is explored in the case study of the Tablighi Jamaat, a transnational Islamic missionary organization that was persecuted by mainstream media and government officials for the spread of the coronavirus. In a landmark decision delivered by the Bombay High Court, the bench condemns the government’s oppressive treatment toward the Tablighi Jamaat, asserting that shifting the blame onto this religious minority group was unwarranted propaganda driven by malicious political efforts to find a scapegoat for the spread of COVID-19.