Kapil Sibal to SC: Widen law to nail candidates using religion in elections

Kapil Sibal
Kapil SIbal, File Photo

Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal on Wednesday urged Supreme Court to expand the boundations during election campaigns for using religion to grab votes.

Kapil Sibal asserted that the technology had widened so much that election campaigns don’t need religion to run their electoral campaigns. Citing from his political experience as a candidate, he said that evolution of internet and mobile phones does not require a candidate to use religion.

He further expressed that “The candidate is assisted by an army of campaigners who bombard voters with communal messages inciting passion. Politicians know the voters’ caste, community, religious and linguistic demographic division. They have mastered the art of inciting passion using each segment without saying a word in public.”

Sibal suggested that court shall interpret Section 123 with regards to “new-age tools” and said, “The court must keep the new-age tools and internet in mind while interpreting Section 123 of Representation of the People Act.”

Talking about the restrictions of the law, Sibal said that “Giving a restrictive meaning to the law and fastening liability only when a candidate uses religion, caste, community or language to seek votes would only encourage the use of proscribed elements in elections.”

He asserted that constitutional spirit does not allows any harm to the secular fabric of the country by infusing religion into political activities or politics.

The bench said, “The heart of Indian politics is on the basis of discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, Scheduled Castes and Tribes. So how can religion and caste per se be an anathema to politics?”

Setting aside the talks regarding protection and welfare of Schedule Castes, Tribes and minority from the law during the electoral speeches, Sibal said, “Making an election speech for protection of Scheduled Castes, Tribes or welfare of minority would not fall foul of Section 123 of RP Act as the Constitution itself talks of government taking steps for welfare of these groups. Technology may have changed the campaigning, but can a candidate be held liable for every post on social networking sites or other electronic medium?”

The bench asked Sibal about the new element, Information Technology which can be used in the elections and asked, “Would it be possible for the candidate to keep track of what any person in his constituency posts on the internet? It could be done by his rival to get him disqualified.”

Sibal agreed it was a possibility. The SC then asked, “Would a candidate get disqualified if the party manifesto talks of prohibited elements? Would all candidates of a political party get disqualified if its president appeals to a religious leader to issue a directive to his followers to vote for a particular party?”

The court also wanted to know if the use of religion was banned in other countries.

Senior advocate Salman Khurshid said he would present a comparative study of other countries. “In many countries, religion is freely used and there is no legal bar on it. But it has been prohibited in India since 1951,” he said.

Wefornews Bureau

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