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'Not a Question of Theology'? Religions, Religious Institutions, and the Courts in India

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Courts have played an important role in defining the relationship between religions and the state in India. Litigation by or against religious institutions has obliged the judiciary to engage in quasi-theological reasoning in order to determine what is 'religious', and therefore beyond state control, and what is 'secular', and therefore subject to government regulation. In pre-colonial India, religious conflicts were settled by means of local arbitration or by the threat or fact of violence. After British legal institutions were established, groups and individuals learned to use the courts to settle such conflicts. This tendency to seek legal solutions to religious disputes has continued in independent India. Since the state tends always to seek an increase of its powers, courts frequently decide such cases to the detriment of the litigants. Examples studied include the Maharaj Libel Case (1862), the Ramakrishna Mission Case (1995), and the Sri Aurobindo Society Case (1982).

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/2049677X.1.2.243

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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  • Comparative Legal History is an international and comparative review of law and history. Articles will explore both 'internal' legal history (doctrinal and disciplinary developments in the law) and 'external' legal history (legal ideas and institutions in wider contexts). Rooted in the complexity of the various Western legal traditions worldwide, the journal will also investigate other laws and customs from around the globe. Comparisons may be either temporal or geographical and both legal and other law-like normative traditions will be considered. Scholarship on comparative and trans-national historiography, including trans-disciplinary approaches, is particularly welcome. The Editors welcome scholarly submissions in the English language. The optimal length for articles is between 7500 to 15000 words, including footnotes. Shorter submissions will be considered for our 'Short Articles' section. All articles are submitted to double blind peer review. Book reviews will generally range from 1500 to 2500 words. Review articles will also be considered. The journal is published, both online and in print, twice a year, appearing in the spring and the autumn.
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