The Supreme Court is all set to revisit its two-decade-old Hindutva judgement for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practice”. The seven-judge bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and justices M B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao is likely to begin on Tuesday its crucial hearing in the matter.
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The apex court in February 2014 had decided to refer the matter to a seven judges bench. The issue assumes importance as questions were raised on
its 1995 verdict which held that vote in name of “Hindutva/ Hinduism” did not prejudicially affect any candidate and since then three election petitions are pending on the subject in the apex court.
The apex court’s three-judge bench in 1995 had held that “Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind”. The judgement was delivered in the case of Manohar Joshi versus N B Patil which was authored by Justice J S Verma who found that statement by Joshi that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra did not amount to appeal on ground of religion”.
The observation was made while dealing with the question regarding the scope of corrupt practices mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of People Act.
The issue for interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act once again had come on January 30, 2014 (Friday) before a five-judge which referred it for examination before a larger bench of seven judges.
The seven judges would be dealing with the appeal filed in 1992 by BJP leader Abhiram Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay High Court.
A three-judge bench on April 16, 1992 had referred Singh’s appeal in which the same question and interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act was raised to a five-judge Constitution Bench.
While the five-judge bench was hearing this matter on January 30, 2014 it was informed that an identical issue was raised in the election petition filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa and the apex court’s another Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred it to a larger bench of seven Judges. Thereafter, the five-judge bench had referred Singh’s matter also to the Chief Justice for placing it before as seven-judge bench. The January 30, 2014, order said, “Be that as it may, since one of the questions involved in the present appeal is already referred to a larger bench of seven judges, we think it appropriate to refer this appeal to a limited extent regarding interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of
the 1951 Act to a larger bench of seven judges.
“The Registry will place the matter before the Chief Justice for constitution of a bench of seven judges. The matter may be listed subject to the order of the Chief Justice.” The apex court had also noted, “In the course of arguments, our attention has been invited to the order of this court dated August 20, 2002 in Narayan Singh vs. Sunderlal Patwa. By this order, a Constitution Bench of five judges has referred the question regarding the scope of corrupt practice mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger bench of seven judges.
“This became necessary in view of the earlier decision of a Constitution Bench of this court in Kultar Singh vs. Mukhtiar Singh,” the court had said.