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Hinduism, India, Juristic personhood, Sovereignty, Constitutional law, Sabarimala, Ban on women


A brief commotion arose during the hearings for one of twenty-first-century India’s most widely discussed legal disputes, when a dynamic young attorney suggested that deities, too, had constitutional rights. The suggestion was not absurd. Like a human being or a corporation, Hindu temple deities can participate in litigation, incur financial obligations, and own property. There was nothing to suggest, said the attorney, that the same deity who enjoyed many of the rights and obligations accorded to human persons could not also lay claim to some of their constitutional freedoms. The lone justice to consider this claim blandly and briefly observed that having specific legal rights did not perforce endow one with constitutional rights. Nevertheless, a handful of recent and high-profile disputes concerning Hindu temple deities and the growing influence of Hindu nationalist politics together suggest that the issue of deities’ rights is far from a settled matter. This article argues that declining to recognize deities’ constitutional rights accurately reflects dueling commitments in the Indian Constitution.

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Journal of Law and Religion


© The Author(s), 2023.

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