SC bars using religion, language for vote; will it affect Church and MoI?

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 02 January 2017 22:31 IST

While five states are awaiting Assembly elections in the next two days, the Supreme Court has delivered a historic judgement: no candidate can ask for vote in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language.

The judgement is delivered by a seven-member constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, where three judges have played a dissenting note. It’s 4:3.

As reported by national media widely, the SC has interpreted the words ‘his religion’ in section 123 (3) of the Representation of Peoples Act as religion and caste of all, including the voters, candidates and their agents.

It deals with corrupt practices and using religion, caste, creed, community or language to seek vote would amount to corrupt practice under the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act.

But the minority in the bench - U.U. Lalit, A.K. Goel and D.Y. Chandrachud - held that ‘religion’ means religion of the candidate only.

The majority view, also shared by Justices M.B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde and L.N. Rao, said ‘secularism’ has to be considered while dealing with such issues.

The judgement was delivered during hearing of several petitions filed in relation to Hindutwa.

In view of Goa election, the judgement needs to be analysed when two major issues are presently being debated in the election:

  1. The Archbishop issuing voting guidelines for its own community, which is being objected by Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch, especially when political leaders go and attend the civic reception accorded by the Church and listen to Archbishop’s speech.
  2. The whole agitation of Medium of Instruction and grants to English medium schools made an election issue by one party – Goa Suraksha Manch – being formed by the RSS.

goanews.com tried to seek reactions of two legal luminaries in this regard – Adv Uday Bhembre who is also the leader of the BBSM and Adv Cleofator Almeida Coutinho, who independently supports government grants to English medium primary schools.

Both of them clarified that their comments are subject to the reading of the whole judgement and purely on the basis of media reports.

Adv Bhembre feels that the judgement would ‘indirectly’ affect the practice of the Church issuing voting guidelines to its community.

   

Because, he feels, the Church here guides its own flock. And secondly, it is a case of bringing religion into politics.

But Adv Coutinho feels otherwise.

According to him, the Church does not ask for votes. It issues general guidelines to the voter (of their community) without mentioning any particular party or candidate.

The second issue of MoI is also debated by both.

Adv Coutinho feels that the picture would be clear only when the whole judgement comes into hand.

He quotes two judgements of 1965 and 1971 by the Supreme Court, which in brief read as follows:

“Article 29 of the Constitution includes right to educate for the protection of the language and making promises by a candidate to work for the conservation of elector’s language does not amount to corrupt practice.”

But he said it needs to be seen whether the apex court has reviewed these judgements while delivering today’s judgement.

Adv Bhembre however claimed that neither BBSM nor its political outfit, the GSM, talks about language.

“We are opposed to the government grants to English schools, not opposed to the language”, he said.

But when pointed out that the BBSM has also attacked the Church and its community for  promoting English while calling it a foreign language, he admitted that they have taken this stand.

“In view of the judgement, after reading it thoroughly, we will have to see whether we can use this argument during election campaign”, he told goanews.com.

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Previous Comments

A BIG SALUTE TO SUPREME COURT:

Using Religion, Caste, Creed, Community or Language to seek vote would amount to corrupt practice under the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act. Parties are dividing Indians in the name of all these nonsense. Also Supreme Court should pass that IF ANY PARTY DOES NOT FULFILL THE POLL PROMISES WITHIN HALF TENURE THAN THAT PARTY WILL BE BAN FOR CHEATING THE VOTERS!

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 03 rd January 2017 22:08

 

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