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What is integral to a faith should best be left to the discretion of the religious denomination, it says in plea

Members of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church in Kerala have approached the Supreme Court for permission to intervene in the Sabarimala review case before a nine-judge Constitution Bench.

The nine-judge Bench is poised to decide “larger questions” of what constitutes religious freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution. The Bench will also determine whether the court can examine religious practices across multiple faiths and decide if they are really essential or not.

The Jacobite Church members, represented by advocates Haris Beeran and Pallavi Pratap, said what is integral to a faith should best be left to the discretion of the religious denomination. Judicial review into religion should remain limited.

“The applicants submit that the extent of judicial review with regard to religious practices with regard to Article 25 is very limited and therefore the religious denomination should have the right to determine whether a particular practice is integral part of a religion. It should be left exclusively to be determined by the head of the section of such religious group,” the application said.

The members said they want to participate in the case as any decision by the nine-judge Bench would affect all.

The members said the immediate need to protect their religious freedom and beliefs has arisen from the recent appointments of vicars to their parish churches.

“Priest/vicar of the parish church was someone who has got kaiveppu [meaning laying of hand on the head and through consecration] from the Patriarch of Antioch and who believes in the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. The kaiveppu and recognition of the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch are essential to the religious belief of the persons like the applicants.”

However, the priests appointed now do not believe in the supremacy of the Patriarch nor the need for consecration.

“This act of the church has violated the right to freedom of faith and belief of the applicants and therefore this application is preferred for restoring the right of the applicants under Article 25,” the plea said.

Presently, the applicants said they are unable to undergo the seven sacraments and funeral services in their parish churches in accordance with their faith as the priests do not have kaiveppu from the Patriarch.

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