Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC
- Terming religion a very private relationship between man and his God, a sevenjudge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate.
- The court was interpreting the pronoun ‘his’ used in Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act.
- The provision mandates that it would amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ if a candidate or his agent or any other person, with his consent, appeals for votes on religious or such grounds.
- The question referred to the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on a batch of election petitions was whether the word ‘his’ used in Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act only meant a bar on appeals made in the name of the candidate or his rival or his agent or others in his immediate camp.
- Or, does the word ‘his’ also extend to soliciting votes on the basis of the religion, caste, community, race, language of the electorate as a whole.
- The latter would mean a blanket ban on any appeal, reference, campaign, discussion, dialogue or debate on the basis of religion, race, caste, community or language, even if such a debate was on the deprivations suffered by the voters due to these considerations.
- The primary legislative aim of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act is to “curb communal and separatist tendencies in the country.”
- Quoting Winston Churchill, Justice said: “At the bottom of all tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little piece of paper.”
- Religion, caste and language are as much a symbol of social discrimination imposed on large segments of our society. They are part of the central theme of the Constitution to produce a just social order. Electoral politics in a democratic polity is about social mobilisation.