A larger bench of seven judges of the Supreme Court would ascertain whether delivering a speech and exhorting persons on the basis of religion, caste and creed during an election rally would amount to corrupt practice under the election law.
This would virtually reopen SC’s 1995 judgment that held Hindutva was a way of life and, hence, a candidate wasn’t affected prejudicially if votes were sought on this plank.
Justice JS Verma had then set aside the Bombay High Court verdict and restored elections of nine BJP candidates from Maharashtra who lost their assembly seats following HC directions. Elections took place in 1990 where BJP-Shiv Sena combine candidates contested the polls on Hindutva plank.
According to senior advocate DA Desai, one of the appeals filed by the BJP leader, remained pending. "This matter came up for hearing in 1996. The bench hearing it disagreed with Justice Verma’s verdict and referred the issue to a five-judge bench," Desai said.
As the matter awaited adjudication, a similar case from Madhya Pradesh reached SC and in 2002 was referred to the seven-judge bench. On January 30, counsel for both sides appeared before a constitution bench headed by Justice RM Lodha.
In view of the 2002 reference, the bench sent Abhiram Singh’s appeal to the larger bench, which would be constituted by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.