HC dismisses plea challenging cancellation of ‘atheist’ certificate

The Hindu: October 3, 2019

‘No need in law to be issued a certificate to such effect’

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed a petition of a youth from Haryana who challenged the cancellation of his “atheist” certificate by the State government after it had been issued to him by a local official earlier.
Justice Tejinder Singh Dhindsa, while dismissing the petition, observed that if the petitioner has chosen a path of an atheist and doesn’t believe in any caste or class, there would be no requirement in law for him to be issued a certificate to such effect.

The court held that undoubtedly, the freedom of conscience under Article 25 of the Constitution encompasses in itself a freedom to an individual to take a view that he does not belong to any religion.

Individual rights
“The freedom conferred by Article 25 of the Constitution would also include a right of an individual to claim that he is an ‘atheist’. Just as a freedom of conscience confers a fundamental right to a citizen to entertain a particular religious belief, it equally confers a right on any other individual-citizen to express an opinion that he does not belong to any religion,” said the court.

The petitioner, Ravi Kumar Atheist, had approached the court challenging the cancellation of the “atheist” certificate which was issued to him by the Naib Tehsildar, Tohana of district Fatehabad in Haryana. The certificate issued on April 29, 2019 certified that the petitioner was an atheist and does not belong to any caste, religion and does not believe in God. However, on May 4, 2019 the certificate was cancelled.

The court said that even if any such certificate had been issued by the Naib Tehsildar concerned and the same was subsequently cancelled, it would be of no consequence.

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