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Invoking Religion and Caste for Votes during Elections will amount to “corrupt practice,” says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing on a batch of petitions to examine whether appeals in the name of religion and caste for votes during elections amounted to "corrupt practice"

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Women participating in a political event, Wikimedia
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  • In the course of the daylong hearing, a seven-judge Constitution Bench posed several questions to be addressed by counsel appearing in the matter
  • The bench is examining whether the use of words like “Hindutva” or “Hinduism” or any similar nomenclature amounted to garnering votes by exploiting religious feelings of the voters
  • The court is having a relook at the 1996 judgment by which a three-judge bench held that Hinduism is a way of life and a state of mind and not a religion

October 18, 2016: The Supreme Court on Tuesday commenced hearing on a batch of petitions to examine whether appeals in the name of religion and caste for votes during elections amounted to “corrupt practice” under the law and hence could be a ground for unseating a lawmaker.

In the course of the daylong hearing, a seven-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices Madan B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel, Uday Umesh Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao posed several questions to be addressed by counsel appearing in the matter.

However, the bench declined, for now, a plea by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to ask Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to assist the court in the matter.
[bctt tweet=”Mobilising votes by invoking religious sentiments was destructive of Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.” username=””]

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The bench felt that the issue before it concerned an election dispute and thus at this point of time, there was no necessity to seek the views of the Attorney General or the central government.

The bench is examining whether the use of words like “Hindutva” or “Hinduism” or any similar nomenclature amounted to garnering votes by exploiting religious feelings of the voters.

Justice Bobde said that mobilising votes by invoking religious sentiments was destructive of Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951.

“Making an appeal in the name of religion is destructive of Section 123 (3). If you make an appeal in the name of religion, then you are emphasising the difference or you are emphasising the identity. It is wrong,” Justice Bobde observed.

Section 123 (3) prohibits seeking votes by a candidate or his agent on grounds of his religion, race, caste, community or language or the use of, or appeal to religious symbols or the use of, or appeal to, national symbols.

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The hearing by the seven-judge bench is rooted in the conflicting judgments delivered way back in 1995 and 1997 on whether seeking of votes in the name of “Hindutva” or “Hinduism” amounted to the exploitation of religion, as prohibited under Section 123(3).

The bench asked senior counsel Arvind Datar — appearing for one of the petitioners — whether by making an appeal in the name of religion, “are you not emphasising the identity of the candidate?”

The bench also asked when votes are mobilised by invoking religion or appealing to religious identity, would it not amount to seeking votes in the name of religion.

The bench cited a hypothetical situation wherein a Muslim supporter of a Hindu candidate sought votes from his community by invoking religion and fear of divine retribution if they don’t vote. And the vice versa situation.

Similarly, there were questions on seeking votes by exploiting caste identities.

The court is having a relook at the 1996 judgment by which a three-judge bench held that Hinduism is a way of life and a state of mind and not a religion. Therefore, it said, invoking Hinduism was not a corrupt practice.

It was on the strength of this judgment that the Supreme Court had reversed the unseating of nine BJP legislators in Maharashtra, including former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi.

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However, one case of Abhiram Singh is still pending as it was referred by the five-judge bench to the seven-judge bench.

Mumbai High Court. Wikimedia
Mumbai High Court. Wikimedia

Abhiram Singh was elected to the Maharashtra assembly in February 1990. His election was set aside by the Bombay High Court in December 1991 and since then his appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.

Hearing will continue on Wednesday. (IANS)

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  • Ruchika Kumari

    Religion and cast should be kept aside from politics. This one is much needed verdict.

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC