Can Dalits be made poll issue, asks SC : The Tribune India

Can Dalits be made poll issue, asks SC

NEW DELHI: A seven-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur today sought to know if seeking votes in the name of Dalits would come under the ban on the use of religion, caste, race or language in electioneering.



R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 26

A seven-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur today sought to know if seeking votes in the name of Dalits would come under the ban on the use of religion, caste, race or language in electioneering.

The Bench was hearing a batch of election petitions pertaining to disqualification or non-disqualification of victorious candidates who had faced charges under the ban provided in Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act 1951.

Arguing for one of the candidates, senior counsel Kapil Sibal said making Dalits a poll issue would not attract the disqualification provision as the community enjoyed constitutional provisions for their uplift.

Sibal, however, found fault with an apex court verdict approving the practice of political parties offering sops to voters in their election manifestos. This should be declared as a corrupt practice, he pleaded. He defended the legal provision for disqualification of MPs and MLAs for seeking votes in the name of religion and caste. In fact, he questioned the logic behind an amendment made in 1961, making the ban applicable only to the contesting candidates.

The disqualification should kick in even if a third person had sought vote for the contesting candidates, he argued. Due to the growing reach of the social media, it was possible for the candidates to encourage their supporters to launch a campaign for them in the name of religion, caste or any other prohibited issues.

The other members of the Bench are Justices MB Lokur, SA Bobde, AK Goel, UU Lalit, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao.

Yesterday, the Bench had clarified that it would not revisit the apex court’s 1995 judgment by three judges holding that seeking votes in the name of Hindutva/Hinduism would not result in disqualification as the two words denoted “a way of life,” not religion.

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