SC declined to review its 1995 judgment on Hindutva
The Supreme Court has declined plea of social activist to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgment.
A seven-judge Bench clarified that the Supreme Court is now examining only what constitutes corrupt electoral practice under Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Specifically, the Constitution Bench is hearing arguments on whether it amounts to a corrupt electoral practice if a candidate ropes in the services of religious leaders to use their mass appeal to swing votes in his or her favour.
What does 1995 judgment state
The judgment stated that Hindutva or Hinduism is a “way of life” and has nothing to do with “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bias”.
Justice Verma had concluded in 1995 that “no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage”.
Classifying Hindutva as a way of life of the people in the sub-continent, he dismissed the idea of equating the abstract terms Hindutva or Hinduism with the “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”.
Section 123 (3) of Representation of People’s Act bars candidate from adopting the following means
The promotion of feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language by a candidate for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.
View of Social Activists
1. Ms. Setalvad; theatre activist and author Shamsul Islam; and senior journalist Dilip Mandal appealed to the Bench that the interpretation given in the December 11, 1995 judgment by Justice J.S. Verma had led to “Hindutva becoming a mark of nationalism and citizenship”.
2. Ms. Setalvad and her two co-applicants said the court’s interpretation of Hindutva/Hinduism had today led to “demands of homogenisation and assimilation of minority communities and SC/STs in the Hindutva way of life”.
3. They contended that the judgment’s interpretation of Hindutva had curtailed faith in secularism and stifled India’s academic pursuit and scientific temper.