Deliberating on its two-decade-old judgement which declared “Hinduism” as a way of life, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, asked if spiritual leaders who aren’t contesting polls seek votes for a particular party could be held accountable for “corrupt practices” under the electoral law.
“How can a person, who himself has neither contested nor returned as a winning candidate, be tried for allegedly resorting to corrupt practices under the Representation of the People (RP) Act?” a seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked lawyers representing the contesting parties in the case.
The seven-judge bench is examining the legal question of what constitutes electoral malpractices.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Abhiram Singh whose election as a legislator in 1990 on BJP ticket from Santacruz, Mumbai, was invalidated by the high court said law related to corrupt practice comes in play only if it is established that a candidate or his agent asked for votes in the name of religion.
“If any other person, like late Bal Thackeray and late Pramod Mahajan in the present case, sought votes on these grounds, referred to in the RP Act, then there has to be the “consent” of the candidate,” Datar told the bench.
He stressed that consent of the candidate was necessary if he was liable to be held for “corrupt practices,” warranting his or her disqualification. In his client’s case, he said, there was no consent. The leaders, it was alleged, had sought votes in the name of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.