Politicians can’t seek votes in name of caste, creed or religion

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that no politician can seek vote in the name of caste, creed, or religion while hearing the Hindutva case which deals with electoral malpractices arising out of its 1995 judgment.

“Any appeal for votes on ground of religion amounts to corrupt practices under electoral laws,” the court said.

The court also added that relationship between man and god is individual choice. “State is forbidden to interfere in such an activity,” the court said.

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Referring to the term ‘his religion’ used in section 123(3) of the Representation of The Peoples (RP) Act, which deals with ‘corrupt practice’, Chief Justice T S Thakur and three others in the 4:3 verdict said it meant the religion and caste of all including voters, candidates and their agents etc.

However, the minority view of three judges – UU Lalit, A K Goel and D Y Chandrachud – held that the term ‘his’ religion means religion of candidate only.

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Teesta Setalvad had requested the bench to reconsider the 1995 judgement. Setalvad had sought the Supreme Court’s intervention in the matter with an application stating that religion and politics should not be mixed and a direction be passed to delink religion from politics.

The seven-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, had earlier said the court will not go into the larger debate as to what is Hindutva or what its meaning is and will not reconsider the 1995 judgment.

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The apex court bench also comprised of Justices MB Lokur, SA Bobde, AK Goel, UU Lalit, DY Chandrachud and L Nageshwar Rao.

The court instead took up a separate plea filed in 1990 asking whether seeking of votes in the name of religion will amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act and warrant disqualification.

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It may be recalled that the Bombay High Court had set aside the election of Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi in the mid-1990s. The matter was then moved to Supreme Court, which in 1995 overturned the high court order saying Hindutva is a way of life.

Since then, the issue has been raised in the top court many times, including in 2002 when the court referred the matter to a seven-judge bench for clarity.

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