The Supreme Court today refused to redefine Hindutva. In a 1995 judgment, the apex court had defined Hindutva as a way of life and not a religion. Activist Teesta Setalvad had pleaded the top court to reconsider the judgement. Setalvad had not only asked the court to redefine Hindutva but also sought a ban on the use of the term in elections. However, the apex court said it won’t reconsider the 1995 judgment.
Setlvad’s plea was relevant in the context of another politically sensitive plea filed in 1990. The earlier plea had asked the top court to decide if a religious leader’s plea to people to vote for a particular party would amount to electoral malpractice under Section 123 of Representation of People Act.
Today, the apex court said that it won’t examine the larger issue of whether Hindutva means Hindu religion and whether it is okay to use Hindutva in elections.
The 7-judge bench of the top court, however, said it is looking into the nexus between religious leaders and candidates and its legality under Section 123 (3) of the Representation of People Act.
The Section 123 (3) of the Representation of People Act says it is a corrupt practice to promote, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.
The 1990 plea in the Supreme Court is related to Maharashtra Assembly elections in which candidates of Shiv Sena and BJP allegedly used two speeches of Bal Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan. Both leaders had allegedly asked people to vote in the name of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. While several petitions were filed against Shiv Sena and BJP candidates, they were rejected by the Bombay high court earlier. court.