The applicant, Mr. Kovalkovs, alleged that he was prevented from adequately performing the religious rituals of Vaishnavism (the Hare Krishna movement). He complained that he was unable to read religious writings in his cell because of his cellmates’ tendency to discuss their immoral lifestyles by using countless swear words. He was also not allowed to burn incense sticks and they had been taken from him.
The applicant complained that there has been a violation of his freedom of religion guaranteed in Article 9 of the Convention.
The Court noted that Article 9 of the Convention lists the various forms which manifestation of one’s religion or belief may take, namely worship, teaching, practice and observance. At the same time, it does not protect every act motivated or inspired by a religion or belief. The Court agreed that there had been an interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion. However, it found that the interference was justified by the fact performance of religious rituals, including burning of incense sticks, could disturb other prisoners and endanger security and order in prison.
The Court found that Mr. Kovalkovs was offered to use the prison chapel for reading and meditating, but he had refused this offer. Regarding the incense sticks it stated that they usually create smell which might be unpleasant for other prisoners. Therefore the Court found the interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion proportional and justified and rejected his complaint as manifestly ill-founded.