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SC Declines to Reconsider its Earlier Order on Hindutva
Oct 29, 2016

The Supreme Court said that seeking votes in the name of religion is ‘evil’ and cannot be permitted, but declined to re-examine its 1995 judgment, which held that Hindutva relates to a ‘way of life’ and not just a religious practice.

  • During the hearing by the seven judges’ Constitutional bench, the apex court said it won't reconsider 1995 judgment which defined Hindutva as "a way of life and not a religion. 

  • The observations came after an on interlocutory application filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad requested the bench to reconsider the 95 judgment. She had sought the Supreme Court's intervention in the matter with an application stating that religion and politics should not be mixed and a direction be passed to delink religion from politics

A seven-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, said the court will not go into the larger debate as to what is Hindutva or what its meaning is and will not reconsider the 1995 judgment. The bench also comprised Justices M.B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, A.K. Goel, U.U. Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageshwar Rao. 

  • The apex court instead took up a separate plea filed in 1990 whether seeking of votes in the name of religion will amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act warranting disqualification. 

It may be recalled that the Bombay High Court had set aside the election of Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi in the mid-1990s. The matter was then moved to Supreme Court, which in 1995 overturned the high court order saying Hindutva is a way of life. Since then, the issue was raised in the top court many times, including in 2002 when the court referred the matter to a seven-judge bench for clarity.

  • A three-judge bench held in 1995 that “unless the context of a speech indicates a contrary meaning or use, inthe abstract, these terms (Hindutva or Hinduism) are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as a faith.”. Hence, it said, using these terms could not impact the validity of election of any candidate.

Under the Representation of the People Act, promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, by a candidate or his agent, amounts to ‘corrupt practice’, and election of the candidate can be set aside on this ground.

 


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