DUB News

Elections: A Secular Exercise?

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In a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, the judicial body has passed governance wherein no political party can conjure votes on the foundation of religion, caste and creed.

The verdict by the apex court was announced as a result of deliberations by a seven-member bench and was a follow-up to a petition filed in 1996. Seeking to retain the secular ethos of the Constitution, it takes into account the vague nature of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act (1951) which states that appeals made by candidates on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language would be banned. The ruling is sought to shed clarity on the wordings, so as the conclusion to be a wholesome ban on the use of religion in campaigning practices. This shall have rippling effects on the forthcoming state elections coined to take place in UP, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur; three out of five states where caste politics is a major factor in soliciting alliances and votes.

In its functional representation, a wall is being endeavored to be built between state and religion. The Constitution ascribes India as a secular country, and this move pushes the foundational strength of that claim. It can be understood that by the rule of extension, elections should also be viewed as a secular practice. Thus, the aim was to embellish the secular character of India; a country which is characterised by its confluence of diverse backgrounds.

This judicial activism aiming to fill the gap between one of the laws can be deemed promising, yet is a long throw from being effectively implemented to becoming successful. Firstly, there is the argument of Free Speech according to which discussions on religion and caste are constitutionally protected and cannot be restricted. Thus, any party genuinely working towards the escalation of minority classes will find itself in a predicament. Secondly, the law has existed before, and only a certain aspect of it has been modified. However, its working remains inadequate since Independence. Thirdly, the implementation is a major hindrance which needs to be entangled. Appealing for votes by pulling the banned strings is not done in the open, and is subtle in approaching voters which may prove to be hard to monitor. Fourthly, this controversial move can prove to be an advantage for BJP as it lobbies for Hindus and Hindutva particularly, which the Supreme Court in 1995 ruled as ‘a way of life’ and not a religion, and thus handing them a rabbit’s escape.

The apex court’s ruling is plausible for national reasons but unfortunately is also rigged with loopholes which might result in it being one of the forgotten laws of the land.

Image Credits: International Business Times

Saumya Kalia

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Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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