It was not possible to completely shut them from making any appeal on the basis of religion.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court will give its verdict on Monday on a batch of petitions regarding whether religion can be used to garner votes in an election, and whether it will amount to a “corrupt practice” warranting disqualification of the winning candidate.
A seven-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices M. B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, A.K. Goel, Uday Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswar Rao, had reserved the verdict on October 26 on the question of law relating to the interpretation of “corrupt practice” within the meaning of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act.
At the outset, the court had already clarified that the seven-judge bench would not go into the larger debate regarding what Hindutva is, or what its meaning is, and that it would confine the scope of its verdict only to whether religion could be used to garner votes in an election.
“The essence, the ethos of our constitutional system is secularism, where religion and politics don’t mix. Elections are a secular activity or not? In a secular state, can religion be brought into secular activities?” the court had asked. The CJI pointed out that seeking votes in the name of religion by a candidate, or on his behalf, may be a greater evil than seeking votes in the name of caste or language as religious appeal is bound to influence the voters.
It was the submission on behalf of the appellants that an appeal by a candidate to voters other than those who share his religion is not proscribed. It was argued that certain political parties, like the Akali Dal and the Indian Muslim League, were registered on the basis of their religious ideologies. It was not possible to completely shut them from making any appeal on the basis of religion.
Countering this argument, the Communist Party of India (Marisxt), which was allowed to intervene, said the phrase “voting for any person” in Section 123 (3) of the RP Act must be construed widely to include within its ambit, even such persons who are not directly involved in the electoral process.
It was countered by arguing that If the Parliament’s intention was to restrict such appeals in regard to candidates alone, it would have specifically stated so, and not used the wider phrase “any person” and hence no further interpretation is required.