The Supreme Court today commenced hearing to revisit its two-decade-old ‘Hindutva’ judgement for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practice”. A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur decided to go ahead with the hearing, ignoring the request of some parties in the matter to involve Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his assistance.
“Are you saying that in every case which relates to interpretation of a legislation, assistance of the Attorney General is needed,” the bench, also comprising justices Madan B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, asked the counsel who had raised the issue of assistance by the top law officer. The bench began the hearing grappling with issues which could be examined by it and wanted to know whether some of them can be remanded back to a smaller bench of five or three judges.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who set the ball rolling at the crucial hearing, submitted that the case of his client BJP leader Abhiram Singh should be separated from this hearing as all the similarly situated people have already got relief from the apex court. He said the appeal filed in 1992 by Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay High Court, has wrongly been tagged to the main petition of Narayan Singh whose appeal by the five judge bench was referred to the seven judges. Datar submitted that the high court had set aside his election as it was alleged that other BJP leaders in their speeches had referred to religion to garner votes for him.
The senior advocate said there were 10 such appeals against the high court order and, except in two, the election of others were restored by the apex court and therefore, Abhiram Singh should be treated on the same footing and his appeal should be remanded back to three-judge bench. He made reference to the similar relief secured by former Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi contending that there was no conflict in that judgement. Datar said in 1990, two such speeches were made, one by late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray and another by late Pramod Mahajan in which reference to ‘Hindutva’ was made to garner votes for the Shiv Sena and BJP candidates.