At the heart of the case relating to the interpretation of Section 123 of the Representation of People's Act, 1951 (Act), is the issue of free speech. Explain.

Free and fair elections  are bedrock of successful democracy. Free and fair elections are ensured through independent election commission, laws under Representation of People’s Act 1951 which govern conduct and disqualification of candidates.

  1. Section 123 of RPA 1951 imposes restriction on corrupt practices in the elections. It also deals with restrictions on political speech of candidate.
  2. Supreme Court in a recent judgment has expanded meaning  of the section with barring the candidates to make an appeal for votes on ground of religion, caste, language etc.
  3. This judgment would impede social mobilization necessary for marginalized section to be politically active.
  4. A genuine appeal made in name of religion, caste to safeguard  the rights of under privileged would be considered a corrupt practice.

This would curb the freedom of speech of candidate either directly or even through his agent as most of the political issues involve religion, caste, language in a multi-ethnic, multicultural nation like India.

Question for UPSC Mains:
"At the heart of the case relating to the interpretation of Section 123 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (Act), is the issue of free speech." Explain.

Published: September 21, 2017 | Modified:June 22, 2019

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