New Delhi, Jan 2: The Supreme Court on Monday passed a landmark judgement whereby seeking votes on the name of religion, caste, race, community or language has been outlawed. The judgement comes ahead of assembly elections in five states where faith and caste top poll planks.
The verdict clearly states that elections cannot be contested by making a pitch to the candidate's or opponents' or voters' religion, caste, race, community or language.
The question before the top court was whether seeking votes in the name of religion was a corrupt practice and if candidates who seek votes in the name of religion should be disqualified.
The judgement was passed by a seven-judge SC bench which was headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, who is to retire on Tuesday. The bench it is reported said that the secular ethos of the Constitution had to be maintained by keeping elections a secular exercise.
The SC was revisiting a 20-year-old judgement that called Hinduism was a way of life and said that a candidate was not affected prejudicially if votes were sought in the name of religion. Over the years several petitions had been filed to challenge the verdict.
The bench further said that, "The relationship between man and God is an individual choice. The state is forbidden to have allegiance to such an activity." The bench, however, was not unanimous in passing the judgement as three of the seven judges disagreed with the judgement and said that this verdict would reduce democracy to an abstraction. The dissenting judges said that, "No government is perfect. The law doesn't prohibit dialogue or discussion of a matter which is concern to the voters."
The majority of judges though said that an elected representative should be secular and that religion has no role in electoral process which as per the bench is a secular activity. The judges added that, "Mixing state with religion is not constitutionally permissible."
It is believed that this judgement is bound to have significant implications in the states that are to go to polls in just few months. In the state of Uttar Pradesh caste-based mobilisation is one of the top poll plank. The construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya is a big poll issue. In a similar fashion in the state of Punjab also religion and sacrilege are top campaign issues.