SC is no mood for larger debate on the meaning of Hindutva
Seeking votes in the name of any religion is “evil”
The Supreme Court has said on Tuesday that seeking votes in the name of any religion is “evil” and cannot be further permitted, but declined to re-examine it’s the year 1995 judgment, which held that Hindutva relates to a “way of life” and not just a religious practice.
Under the Representation of the People Act, promotion of, or any attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, by a candidate or his agent, amounts to any “corrupt practice”, and election of the candidate can be set aside on this ground.
But a three-judge bench held in the year1995 that “unless the context of a speech has indicated a contrary meaning or use, in the abstract, these terms (Hindutva or Hinduism) are further indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as a faith”.
Hence, it said that using these terms could not have any impact on the validity of election of any candidate.
Not examining the issue of what the term Hindutva means: SC
On Tuesday, a seven-judge Constitution Bench which was led by the Chief Justice of India T S Thakur maintained that seeking votes in the name of religion is “evil”. “People also get affected by appeals in the name of religion. And it would only be proper if appeal for votes in a secular country is based on the principles of secularism. We cannot further encourage the practice of asking for more votes in the name of religion… political agitation advancing that the cause of religion with intent to garner votes is not permissible,” it said.
However, the Bench has said that it was not examining the larger issue of whether the term Hindutva means Hindu religion or not, or whether use of Hindutva and Hinduism in elections is impermissible.
The Bench has also stated that the terms of reference to a larger bench is related to nexus between religion and religious leaders on one hand and candidates on the other. “We do not need to examine whether the term Hindutva means religion or not. We are examining the effect of religion under Section 123 (3) of the Act,” it said.
In December 1995, Justice J S Verma, writing for a three-judge Supreme Court bench, had held that seeking the votes in the name of Hinduism is not a “corrupt practice” under the Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act.
Adjudicating on appeals filed by the political leaders, which includes Bal Thackerey, Manohar Joshi and R Y Prabhoo, the bench said that the mere fact that these words (Hindutva or Hinduism) are used in a speech would not make the speaker liable under sub-section (3) or (3A) of Section 123. “It may well be that these words are used in the speech to promote secularism and to emphasize the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticize the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant,” it ruled.