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India: No politician can seek votes in the name of caste, creed or religion, says Supreme Court

The court also added that the relationship between man and god is an?individual choice. 'State is forbidden to interfere in such an activity,' it said. Photograph: (Getty)

DNA New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 02, 2017, 06.41 AM (IST)

The Supreme Court said on Monday that no politician may seek votes in the name of caste, creed, or religion.

"Any appeal for votes on ground of religion amounts to corrupt practices under electoral laws," it said.

The court was hearing an application filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad asking it to reconsider its 1995 judgement in which the court said Hindutva is "a way of life and not a religion". 

In her application, Setalvad had said religion and politics should not be mixed and asked that the court pass a directive saying so.  

The seven-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, said the court would not get into the larger debate of what Hindutva is or what its meaning is -- the dictionary defines it "as an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life" -- and nor would it reconsider the 1995 judgement.

The court instead took up a separate plea filed in 1990 asking whether the seeking of votes in the name of religion amounts to a corrupt practice, under the Representation of the People Act, and warrants disqualification.

The court also said elections were a secular exercise. 

"Election is a secular exercise and thereby its way and its process should be followed also. Function of an elected representative should be secular," it said. 

The court added that "relationship between man and God is an individual choice and state is forbidden to such an activity,"

It may be recalled that the Bombay high court had set aside the election of Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi in the mid-1990s. The matter was then moved to the Supreme Court which overturned the high court order in 1995 saying Hindutva is a way of life.

Since then the issue has been raised numerous times in the top court including in 2002 when the court referred the matter to a seven-judge bench for clarity.

(With inputs from DNA and ANI)

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