Constitutional Lawyer’s Explanation on Whether Sikhs are Written as Hindus in the Indian Constitution

The drafting of the Indian Constitution was not by 1 man which is commonly believed but various committees of different aspects of the Constitution. Many Sikhs have wondered how Sikh religion was categorized as being part of the Hindus when Sikhs prior to 1947 held their own identity. Although the constitutional Assembly’s head was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, he wasn’t responsible for how the minorities got categorized.

It was actually Sardar Patel who was in charge of the sub-committee Minorities and Tribal and Excluded areas. Basically, it was under the guidance of Sardar Patel that Sikhs were written as Hindus in the Indian Constitution as he was responsible and drafted the law on the minorities.

Here is what the controversial article 25 (b) states:

“Article 25 of the Indian constitution. Which says

25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly”

National commission formed to review the constitution (National Commission to review the working of the Constitution – Wikipedia ) agreed that this subclause b needs to be changed:

A further reading into the commission’s report does not state whether they conclude Sikhs are a separate religion:

In fact, the Constitution of India does not define any religion. India’s Constitution does not give a definition of the term Hindu, but it does define to whom the ‘Hindu Law’ applies. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 (which by the way is not the Constitution), by stipulating in Section 2 that the Act applies:

(a) to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms and developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,

(b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion, and

(c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion

Here again we see that though Hindu Marriage Act provides for laws related to marriages of Hindus but extends the provisions to ‘Sikhs by religion’. It does acknowledge Sikhs as a seperate religion.

We read the fine-print and we notice that they do not extend the definition of Hindu to Sikhs, but the applicability of the act to “Sikh by religion”.

Further reading on the development of the Indian Constitution:

Around independence, a Constituent Assembly was formed with representatives of most of the stakeholders of independent India. These people were of extreme merit and understood law, politics, and multiple other such aspects that people who hold such a responsibility should understand.

The Constituent Assembly had a drafting committee that was headed by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

To draft the Indian Constitution, a Drafting Committee was constituted by the Constituent Assembly with seven members under the chairmanship of the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The Constituent Assembly constituted different Committees to deal with different aspects of the Constitution. They are,

Committee on the Rules of Procedure – Rajendra Prasad
Steering Committee – Rajendra Prasad
Finance and Staff Committee – Rajendra Prasad
Ad hoc Committee on the National Flag – Rajendra Prasad
Union Constitution Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
Union Powers Committee and States Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
Provincial Constitution Committee and Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights – Sardar Patel
Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas – Sardar Patel
Committee on the Functions of the Constituent Assembly – G.V. Mavalankar
Order of Business Committee – Dr. K.M. Munshi
House Committee – B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya
Special Committee to Examine the Draft Constitution – Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar

The Constituent assembly set for total 11 sessions. And after so many discussions and debate, final draft of our constitution was prepared. The final draft of the Constitution was presented before the Constituent Assembly on November 3 1949. The Constituent Assembly took two years, eleven months and eighteen days to complete the framing of the Indian Constitution. The President of the Constituent Assembly was put his signature and finally on 26th November 1949, the Constitution of India was adopted and on 26th January 1950, it came into force in all over India except Jammu and Kashmir.

On 29 Aug.,1947, the Drafting Committee was appointed with following members for actually drafting the constitution

1. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar—Member/ President,
2. Govind Ballabh Pant—Member,
3. K.M. Munshi—————-do ( Ex.Home Minister, Bombay )
4. A.K.Iyer————————do ( Ex.Advocate General, Madras )
5. N. Gopaladwami Ayengar—do ( Ex.PM, JK )
6. B.L.Mitter ———————-do ( Ex.Adv.Gen., India )
7. Md. Sadullah——————do ( Ex.CM, Assam, member Muslim League)
8. D.P.Khaitan——————–do ( Renowned Lawyer and Businessman )

The articles which came into force on 26 November 1949 included articles 5, 6, 8, 9, 60, 324, 366, 372, 388, 391, 392, and 393. And all other articles came into force in 26 January 1950.

The Constitution as we know came into existence after extensive debate and deliberation of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly Debates have been transcribed and published, and although they are voluminous, it is an extremely enlightening read, and makes you realise the enormity of the task undertaken by the members of the Constituent Assembly.

The credit for the Constitution goes to the members of the Constituent Assembly, members of which were honourable and high profile individuals drawn from across the country and from different communities, only uniting factor being that they were all Indian.

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