The Election Commission of India has notified all political parties to ensure strict compliance of the Supreme Court’s judgment that held that seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or community amounted to a corrupt practice.
In a letter dated January 24, 2017, authored by the Election Commission’s secretariat, it is stated: “The commission has instructed that all political parties shall take due note of the directions in the judgment for strict compliance. The political parties may also suitably brief and inform their lower formations and party cadres and all their candidates about the ruling of the Supreme Court and ask them to desist from any activities that would amount to soliciting votes in the name of religion, caste, etc. in any manner, in their own interest and in the interest of the party. Such appeals may also fall within the ambit of sub-paras(3) and (4) of Part-l of the Model Code of Conduct.”
A seven-judge constitution bench headed by then CJI TS Thakur passed the ruling in a 4:3 majority, while interpreting Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act.
Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit dissented from the majority view, which held: “Election is a secular exercise and therefore a process should be followed. The relationship between man and god is an individual choice and state should keep this in mind.”
The letter quoted all the relevant paras from the apex court’s judgment. As reported by the Indian Express, the Election Commission has also stated that a copy of the Supreme Court order will be circulated to all district-level electoral officials, along with instructions empowering them to lodge FIRs under relevant sections of the IPC and the Representation of the People Act, if someone is found seeking votes on religious grounds.
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