Supreme Court Asks: Is Seeking Votes in Name of Religion a Corrupt Practice?

By Timesheadline Staff Writer

New Delhi:

Recently, the Supreme Court has observed that religion or caste is a ‘key part’ of India’s political discourse and that grabbing votes in the name of religion is “evil” and ‘corrupt practice’. The SC has asked whether a political party or a candidate, seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or tribe by promising that this would help protect and improve the voters’ lot as a community, would amount to “corrupt practice” under the election law.

However, the apex court declined to hear a plea by social activist Teesta Setalvad to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgement defining Hindutva or Hinduism as a “way of life” and not a religious practice. The five-judge bench reiterated its observation that it would not re-visit the famous ‘Hindutva’ verdict holding Hinduism as a ‘way of life’ as the issue did not find mention in the reference made to it.

Misreporting by Media on Seven Member Constitutional Bench

This is a Seven Judge Constitutional Bench looking at the crucial issue of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act which is-at election time-the section of the law to create a wall of separation between Religion and Politics and enforce and ensure the Constitutional Mandate of Secularism. One of the aspects of the Reference being heard is that of the wrong interpretation in our view that an appeal to Hindutva is not an appeal to religion. Yesterday the CJI/Bench passed an oral observation saying two things. One that Religion in Politics is the ultimate evil in a secular state and that they may not go into the Hindutva not being Religion in this reference. No where was my IA discussed. The media is unfortunately irresponsibly collapsing the issue. Our IA stands and we will be heard as Intervenor’s. Today or Tomorrow. Indira Jaisingh appears for us.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who argued for one of the respondents in the case, referred to various constitutional schemes including fundamental rights and said sooner or later, the apex court will have to re-visit the entire issue to put an end to caste and religion-based politics in the country. Seeking widening of the scope of Section 123(3) of the RP Act, Sibal said: “In an election, who are being targeted? It is the voters. Hence, the term – “his religion” – in the provision should not remain confined to the candidates only but should include the faith of the electors as well.”

The court, which is examining the scope of section 123(3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act that deals with electoral malpractices amounting to “corrupt practices”, said the issue of prevalent religion and caste-based discrimination was a key part of the political discourse in the country. “What is wrong if a candidate or a party says that Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are not secure and he asks them to vote en masse for him as he will protect them,” a seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said. “Does it amount to corrupt practice if a candidate appeals for votes to a community on the basis of their religion and the aim is to better their lot,” the bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, asked.

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