New Delhi (ABC Live) :The Supreme Court on Monday reiterated that the secular character of the India is an essential part of Indian democracy. The Apex Court ruled that candidates contesting elections cannot seek votes on the grounds of the religion, caste, creed, community or language of voters.
“The Constitution forbids state from mixing religion with politics,” ruled a seven-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur after a split verdict.
“The state being secular in character will not identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. This necessarily implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country which must at all times be secular in nature. Election is a secular exercise just as the functions of the elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice,” Thakur wrote in his opinion.
The verdict may change the rules for electoral politics in India, where political parties have openly use religion, caste and ethnicity to woo voters. Now It is up to the Election Commission India, to implement the decision, and write the model Code of Conduct for elections .
Chief Justice Thakur, judges S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel and L. Nageswara Rao and Madan B. Lokur formed the majority opinion. Three judges—Adarsh Kumar Goel, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud—argued against it maintaining this was the prerogative of Parliament.
“Discussion on caste, creed, religion is constitutionally protected within and outside elections and this cannot be restricted,” Chandrachud held, writing the minority opinion.
“It is a matter of free speech and through this legitimate concerns of the society are addressed,” he added.
In present case The Supreme Court had to decide on the scope of he People’s Representation Act of 1951 that says seeking votes on the grounds of religion and caste as a corrupt practice as Section 123 (3) of the People’s Representation Act of 195 says that, no candidate or his agent can appeal for votes on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language. Any violation of this would be deemed a corrupt practice under the law leading to disqualification of the candidate.
The present case was that several candidates elected in the 1992 Maharashtra assembly polls had appealed to voters on religious grounds and related cases of same virtue of 1996 were also clubbed in by the Supreme Court. Whereas, that bench referred the case to a larger bench. The five-judge bench set up in 2014, further referred this case to present to a seven-judge bench.
The Supreme Court judgment would play some magic in coming elections in assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab which where caste and religion play crucial role.
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