The right to privacy must include a person’s spiritual orientation that they can choose to express in any manner as long as it does not infringe upon anybody else’s rights, the Madras High Court held recently, Bar and Bench reported on Monday.

“If the right to privacy includes sexual and gender orientation, it certainly includes one’s spiritual orientation also,” said Justice GR Swaminathan in an order passed on May 17.

He added: “Of course, it should not affect the rights and freedoms belonging to others. So long as this rubicon is not crossed, it is not open to the state or the courts to impinge on one’s action.”

The court was hearing a petition by a person seeking permission to perform angapradakshinam. It is a ritual that involves a person rolling over the plantain leaves on which others were served food.

The state and district authorities had opposed the petitioner’s request, claiming that such practices were inhumane. They also cited a 2015 judgement of the High Court.

In 2015, a single judge of the court held that no human being could be allowed to be degraded by customs and practices in the name of religion, Live Law reported. The judge had directed the state authorities not to let anybody perform angapradakshinam.

Swaminathan, however, held that it was not open for the court to “challenge the belief entertained by the petitioner as regards the spiritual efficacy of the practice”. He said the petitioner’s right to perform the ritual was protected under the right to equality, freedom and protection of life and personal liberty.

The court also held that the plea was “unnecessary” as the petitioner did not need the court’s permission to perform the ritual, according to Live Law. It also said that it was the duty of the police to aid the petitioner if there was any obstruction in his exercising his rights.