SC reserves order on votes sought on religious, caste lines

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the question of whether seeking votes on the basis of religion, caste, community or language of candidate alone constituted corrupt practice or it could include such acts of his election agent or third parties canvassing support for him.

The seven-judge Constitution Bench hearing the matter is headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and includes Justices Madan B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel, Uday Umesh Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao.

“All that we wanted to know was that the appeal for votes in the name of religion means whose religion? Is it the religion of the candidates or the religion of (his/her) agent or the religion of the third party or religion of voters or all of them,” the court said.

In the course of the hearing that lasted for two weeks, the bench repeatedly made it clear that it was limiting its examination of the curbs imposed on the use of religion, caste, community and language under Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 and was not venturing into defining of ‘Hindutva’.

Section 123(3) prohibits seeking votes by a candidate or his agent on ground(s) of his religion, race, caste, community or language or the use of, or appeal to religious symbols or the use of, or appeal to, national symbols.

When the hearing commenced on October 18, the court said at the very outset that religion was a matter of personal faith and elections were secular and there could not be a mixing of the two.

In the course of the hearing, the court observed that seeking votes in the name of religion was evil.

As a senior counsel told the court on Thursday that he would like to argue if the Constitution Bench was going into the question of Hindutva, Chief Justice Thakur said: “Why are you referring to the Hindutva judgment. We are not examining that judgment. Let me make it clear that this has not been referred to us.”

The hearings that concluded on Thursday is rooted in a 1996 reference by a five-judge bench to the seven-judge Constitution Bench on the interpretation of Section 123(3).

The court on Thursday also observed that under the Fundamental Rights bestowed by the Indian Constitution, there was freedom to practice and propagate one’s religion but could it be used for electoral purposes.

The court said religion could not intrude the “secularity of the electoral process”.

–IANS

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