Rajesh Kumar Srivastava v. A.P. Verma and Ors

AIR 2005 All 175; (2005) 2 UPLBEC 1813
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The petitioner, Rajesh Kumar Srivastava, filed the contempt petition to enforce and to monitor the orders passed by the Supreme Court in D. K. Joshi v. State of U.P., ((2000) 5 SCC 800). In that case the Supreme Court had taken notice of the appalling condition of public health in the State of U.P. and the inability of the State Government to prevent unqualified and unregistered medical practitioners proliferating all over the State.

The application was aimed at stopping the activities of a Sri Ajay Pratap Singh, who claimed to be a faith healer and charged Rs. 30/- from his patients.

The issue before the High Court was whether faith based healing amounted to unauthorized medical practice and whether such practice was “permissible under our Constitutional and Legislative scheme.”

The Court held that faith based healing amounted to unauthorized medical practice. It held that only when a medical practice is “accepted by the experts in the field of medicine that it can be permitted to be practiced in public.” The Court connected unauthorized medical practice with the right to health, as recognized under Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life). It held that right to health included the duty of the state to protect its citizens from “persons practicing and professing unauthorized medical practices.”

On the issue of right to health (Article 21) and the right to practice, profess and propagate one’s religion (Article 25), the Court held that they were not overlapping rights. The Court further held that the right to practice one’s religion freely was subject to the restriction of public health. It also held that the right of an individual to practice religion did not include within its ambit the right of the person to makes claims about improving public health which was “protected and regulated by legislation.”

It therefore held that the “propagation, practice and profession of ‘Faith Healing’ in public on charging consideration” was in violation of the Constitutional and Legislative scheme.

“Where health of the citizens is involved the right as such practice to profess, practice and propagate religion gets controlled and is subservient to the powers of the State to regulate such practice. No person has a right to make a claim of curing the ailments and to improve health on the basis of his right to freedom of religion…The right to health included in Article 21 of Constitution of India does not come in conflict or overlap with the right to propagate and profess religion. These two are separate and distinct rights. Where the right to health is regulated by validly enacted legislation the right to cure the ailment through religious practices including ‘Faith Healing’ cannot be claimed as a fundamental right.” Para. 19.

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