Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 8
Five women have moved the Supreme Court against compulsory practice of sacramental confession in certain Churches in Kerala, contending that it violated their fundamental right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Friday put off hearing on the petition by three weeks after senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the petitioners, sought time to bring on record certain additional material.
Rohatgi said the issue raised important constitutional questions as to if such mandatory confession was an essential religious practice and if it violated the petitioners’ right to privacy.
Earlier, the Supreme Court on December 14 issued notices to the Centre, Kerala Government and 11 Malankara Syrian Church bodies on a petition challenging the practice of mandatory confessions in the Church in the southern state.
It issued the notices after senior advocate Sanjay Parikh submitted that the top court had earlier restrained Kerala High Court from passing orders on issues related to this church.
Petitioner Mathew T Matgachan, Shaj PJ and Jose VJ—members of the Church – had alleged that the practice was leading to several problems including sexual exploitation of women and blackmailing of both men and women followers.
Under the religious practice followed by Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, it’s members are required to undergo ‘Sacramental Confession’ before a priest to relieve themselves of sin.
According to the practice, it’s a condition precedent for fulfilling the temporal and spiritual needs of being a Christian and one who doesn’t do that would be denied the benefit of such services from the Church.
Under the garb of some rules and practice, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was forcing its members to ‘mandatorily confess’ and ‘mandatorily make payment of monies/ dues’, failing which their names were being struck off from their parishes, they alleged.