Explain the Supreme Court's verdict in Abhiram Singh Vs C D Commachen & Others case. To what extent this judgment can wipe out identity politics in the country? Critically discuss.
Published: March 14, 2017
The Representation of the People Act, 1951, is the law governing the conduct of elections in India. Section 123 (3) of this law mandates that canvassing votes on the grounds of one’s own caste, religion or community would be deemed to be a “corrupt” electoral practice, and a candidate found indulging in such practices would face disqualification
But what about those cases where a candidate or her/his agent had campaigned for votes by using the rhetoric of religion or caste of that of her/his opponent? For instance, instead of saying “vote for me because I am a more pious Muslim”, candidate X says “Vote against Y because he is a Hindu, and if he comes to power, your rights would be at peril”. Would this kind of speech still fall afoul of Section 123 (3)?
To address this situation the Supreme Court’s seven judge bench in Abhiram Singh Vs C D Commachen stepped in and ruled that elections must be purged of the various manifestations of religion, caste and community in all forms whatsoever. Therefore, “his” should apply both ways, because the purpose of the law was to prevent communal and parochial appeals from destroying the secular fabric of society and the sanctity of democratic elections.
To what extent it will wipe out identity politics?
Supreme Court bench of seven judges ruling in Abhiram Singh Vs C D Commachen case , if implemented in both letter and spirit, would halt the purveyors of hate right in their tracks. Not only that, they would also be bound by law to be disqualified even if they win elections based on their religious and often sectarian agendas .
However the court didn’t issue appropriate directions to the EC regarding the implementation of its judgment. For example, every election campaign speech needs to be properly video graphed and recorded, and the EC must make suitable infrastructural arrangements which weaken the efficacy of judgement in eliminating the identity politics.
Model Questions Category: 042 - Salient Features of the Representation of Peoples Act