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  • Seeking votes in the name of religion is a malpractice: Constitutional Bench of Apex Court

    January 02, 2017

    Constitutional bench of 7 judges, headed by the CJI, heard an appeal of a case filed in 1992 by BJP leader Abhiram Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay High Court on the ground that he had appealed for votes on the basis of Hindu religion.          

    A three-judge bench on April 16, 1992 had referred Singh’s appeal in which the same question and interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act was raised to a five-judge Constitution Bench. While the five-judge bench was hearing this matter on January 30, it was informed that the identical issue was raised in the election petition filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa and the apex court’s another
    Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred a larger Bench of seven Judges. Thereafter, the bench headed by Justice Lodha referred Singh’s matter to the Chief Justice for placing it before a seven-judge bench. 

    The constitutional bench gave a landmark judgment by declaring that any candidate seen seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or community amounted to corrupt practice and election of a candidate who indulged in it can be set aside. A 4:3 majority passed the ruling. The bench was interpreting section 123(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act.
     
    According to Justices D Y Chandrachud, A K Goel and U U Lalit, who gave a dissenting opinion, said that such an interference by the court almost amounted to judicial redrafting of law. They said prohibiting candidates from articulating issues effecting voters reduced democracy to an abstraction. They added that such decision should be best left to legislature.
     
    “No government is perfect. Law does not prohibit dialogue or a discussion of a matter which concerns voters,” they said.         

    While the majority viewed “Election is a secular exercise and therefore a process should be followed….the relationship between man and god is an individual choice and state should keep this in mind.”
     
    While rejecting the order issues in hand (relating to Hindutva/ Hindusim), the Apex court stated that it was only examining a nexus between religious leaders and candidates and its legality under Section 123 (3) of the Representation of People Act.


    OUR TAKE

    The Constitutional bench today passed a milestone, where it clearly stated that seeking votes in the name of any religion is a mal practice. It has been time and again seen that in India, religious vote bank or politics in the name of religious has always harmed the masses. It was high time this kind of dereliction of duty stopped. This is a pioneer is legal jurisprudence of politics and law.


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