New Delhi, January 2: The Supreme Court today ruled that seeking votes in the name of religion during polls is illegal. The Supreme Court ruled that electoral candidates can’t seek votes on the grounds of religion, caste, creed, community or language during an election campaign.A seven-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said that the secular ethos of the Constitution had to be maintained by keeping elections a secular exercise. “The relationship between man and god is an individual choice. The state is forbidden to have allegiance to such an activity,” the bench said.
Chief Justice Thakur, judges S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel and L. Nageswara Rao agreed with justice Lokur to form the majority opinion. Three judges—justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud—opposed with the majority opinion and said any such verdict would reduce democracy to an abstraction.
The court said the function of an elected representative should be secular. “Religion has no role in electoral process, which is a secular activity,” the judges added. “Mixing state with religion is not constitutionally permissible.”
The landmark judgment came while the court revisited a judgment from 1995 that equated Hindutva with Hinduism and called it a “way of life” and said a candidate was not necessarily violating the law if votes were sought on this plank.
The SC verdict could have a huge impact in the upcoming assembly election in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Reacting to the judgement, NCP leader Majeed Memon said that the BJP could suffer a setback since they were planning to bring up the Ram Mandir issue in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh election. "Local police and EC should be alert about the kind of speeches that will be given in the coming months," Memon added. BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, however, said that the ruling has nothing to do with the BJP as the party has never sought vote on the basis of religion.