New Delhi: The Supreme Court is set to decide on Monday the question whether politicians can use religion to seek votes in a poll campaign.
A seven-judge Constitution bench comprising chief justice T.S. Thakur, justices Madan B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel, U.U. Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao had heard the case for over six days and reserved the verdict on 27 October.
The court will decide the contours of the law that holds seeking votes on the grounds of religion and caste as a corrupt practice. According to section 123 (3) of the People’s Representation Act of 1951, no candidate or his agent can appeal for votes on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language.
Initially, it was anticipated that a landmark ruling in 1995 that defined “Hindutva” or Hindu as “a way of life and not a religion in India”, allowing the word to be used in election campaigns, would be revisited by the court. However, the chief justice’s bench said that it might not reconsider that definition.
The court had also refused to hear the Central government in the case.
The case reached the apex court after there were claims that several elected candidates in the 1992 Maharashtra assembly polls had appealed to voters on religious grounds. Similar cases were brought before the apex court in 1996. However, that bench decided to refer the case to a larger bench. However, the five-judge bench was set up only in 2014, and it in turn referred it to a seven-judge bench.
A definitive verdict is now awaited on the eve of chief justice Thakur’s retirement