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Supreme Court issues notice to Election Commission on plea seeking action against parties invoking religion, caste in speeches

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Election Commission on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking strict action against political parties if their spokespersons and representatives deliver speeches or make remarks in the media pertaining to religion or caste.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna sought a response from the poll watchdog by 15 April.

An NRI from Sharjah, Harpreet Mansukhani, filed the petition. Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for Mansukhani in court, reported Bar and Bench.

While the bench admitted the plea this time and issued the Election Commission a notice, in October 2018, the Supreme Court had dismissed a similar PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. He had sought directions to the Centre and the Election Commission to take action against political parties and candidates "misusing religion for electoral gains". The court had rejected the plea, saying: "We are not inclined. Dismissed."

 Supreme Court issues notice to Election Commission on plea seeking action against parties invoking religion, caste in speeches

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

It must be noted that in 2017, the top court had termed seeking votes on the basis of religion or caste a "corrupt" poll practice, and any such act would be against the secular ethos of the Constitution.

"Election is a secular exercise. Therefore, a process should be followed… The relationship between man and god is an individual choice, and State should keep this in mind," the Supreme Court had held in a majority judgment of 4:3.

In 2017 again, former chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi had said the poll panel will "strictly implement" the Supreme Court order on invoking religion and communal rhetoric by politicians, reported The Times of India.

Under section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, appeals on the grounds of religion, race or caste that promotes feelings of enmity between different classes constitute a corrupt practice. However, it can only be questioned by way of an election petition and cannot be a subject of inquiry before the Election Commission, even when polls are underway.

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Updated Date: Apr 08, 2019 13:18:01 IST

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