The Supreme Court of India has started off the New Year with a historic judgment. On 2nd January 2017, in the case of Abhiram Singh Vs CD Commachen & Ors case, a seven-judge bench delivered this ruling with the majority of 4:3. If properly implemented, it would entail an end to the use of communalism, casteism and religious divides in elections.
In a religiously volatile country like India, it is fundamentally easy and convenient for political parties to sway away votes on the basis of divisions based on caste and religion. To achieve their own ends, they indulge in hate speech, propagate riots and induce clash. As a result, what are compromised are the principles of free, fair and democratic elections.
The judgment focused on the purposive interpretation of Representation of People’s Act, 1951, which, in its Section 123(3) makes it clear that campaigning for votes on the grounds of caste, religion or community would be regarded as a corrupt electoral practice.
SC made it vivid that along with campaigning for votes on the basis of such identities, discouraging voters from voting for another candidate because of his affiliation to a different identity would also be regarded as a corrupt and undemocratic practice.
All this is to ensure a secular fabric of the country. If this judgment is implemented with utmost competence, no party would get away with acts of promising temples, mosques or promotion of killings for their share of votes.
SC specifically discussed the possible potential devastating impact that a hate speech in electoral campaigning can have in the era of electronic and social media, hence, aggravating the need for this judgment.
This judgment might lack in some specifics- like, not mentioning or laying down a proper guideline for implementation, and ignoring, the lack of infrastructure required, but this sure might turn out to be a relief in these scorched times, when politics is nothing but a forum for swinging votes by manipulating faith and promoting ignorance.