Use of religion, caste for seeking votes impermissible: Supreme Court

A constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur by a 4:3 majority passed the order.

Published: 02nd January 2017 11:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd January 2017 12:14 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court | File Photo

A view of the Supreme Court premises. | PTI

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday said that religion and caste cannot be used to seek votes and made it clear that religion has no role in the electoral process and that it is just a secular activity.

Pronouncing the verdict, a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, who retires on Tuesday told that, "Freedom to follow religion has nothing to do with the secular nature of the state. The relationship between man and god is an individual choice and state is forbidden to have allegiance to such an activity."

Four out of the seven-judge bench banned seeking votes in the name of religion, but three judges said that such practice can be allowed. Chief Justice T S Thakur, Justices Madan B Lokur, Sharad Bobde, L Nageshwra Rao favours for rooting out religion from an election, Justices A K Goel, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud differed.

Minority ruling states that "constitution allows a person from taking the position on religion, language and candidate can raise such issues in an election."

The ruling gives wider meaning to Section 123 of Representation of People Act to stamp out the use of religion and community affiliation from elections. The judgment will have far-reaching implications in the states that go to the polls just months from now, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya is always used to woo voters.

In the 1995 judgement authored by former Justice J S Verma, it has been interpreted that the term 'his religion', used in section 123(3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act which deals with 'corrupt practice', meant the faith of the candidates only.

The ruling came on a batch of petitions regarding whether religion can be used to garner votes in an election and whether it will amount to a “corrupt practice” warranting disqualification of the winning candidate.

During the hearing, the court had said elections were a secular exercise and religion should be separated from political processes.

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