Supreme Court: Giving a 4:3 verdict, the 7-Judge Bench held that an appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is impermissible under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice sufficient to annul the election in which such an appeal was made regardless whether the appeal was in the name of the candidate’s religion or the religion of the election agent or that of the opponent or that of the voter’s.
In the matter where the interpretation of the word ‘his’ under Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, T.S. Thakur, CJ and Madan B. Lokur, L.Nageswar Rao and S.A. Bobde, JJ, giving the majority view, said that the sum total of Section 123 (3) even after amendment is that religion, race, caste, community or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process and should an appeal be made on any of those considerations, the same would constitute a corrupt practice. It was held that for maintaining the purity of the electoral process and not vitiating it, sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 must be given a broad and purposive interpretation thereby bringing within the sweep of a corrupt practice any appeal made to an elector by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate on the ground of the religion, race, caste, community or language of (i) any candidate or (ii) his agent or (iii) any other person making the appeal with the consent of the candidate or (iv) the elector.
Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Adarsh K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ on the other hand were of the opinion that the ‘his’ in Section 123(3) of RP Act does not refer to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the voter. ‘His’ is to be read as referring to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the candidate in whose favour a vote is sought or that of another candidate against whom there is an appeal to refrain from voting. It was said that the actual unfolding of democracy and the working of a democratic constitution may suffer from imperfections but these imperfections cannot be attended to by an exercise of judicial redrafting of a legislative provision. [Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 9, decided on 02.01.2017]