NEW DELHI, Jan 2 - The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that seeking votes on the basis of religion, race, caste or language of a candidate or a rival or of the voters is illegal. It said election was a secular exercise and elected representatives too have to work on secular lines.
Most political parties as well as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Jamat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) hailed the ruling. The dissenting voice came from within the bench.
A Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur was split 4:3, with three of seven judges not agreeing with the observation of the narrow majority.
The majority judgement came from Chief Justice Thakur, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao.
The majority ruling said mixing of State activities with religion was not permissible, pointing out that the relationship between man and God was an individual choice.
The court said this while interpreting Section 123(3) of the Representation of People�s Act, 1951, that spells out corrupt practices.
While agreeing that seeking votes by invoking religion, race, caste, community and language was a corrupt practice, the dissenting judgement by Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said prohibiting people in electoral fray from speaking about the legitimate concerns of the people reduced democracy to abstraction.
Pointing out that there should be no judicial drafting of the law, Justice Chandrachud, speaking for the minority group, observed that there was also no law that barred dialogue and discussion on issues that concerned voters and the same should not be construed as an appeal to gain votes.
Many political parties and religious bodies welcomed the ruling. � IANS