ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sectarian Appeals in Elections

Interpreting Representation of the People Act Well

The Supreme Court’s judgment on sectarian appeals during election campaigns interprets the Representation of the People Act, 1951 correctly and to its intended effect. The dissenting judgment conflated the substance of the appeal with the identity of the person who is making it, and did not address the scope of the case. The majority judgment’s regulation of election speech is not only necessary to ensure free and fair elections and uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution, but it is also needed to fulfil the constitutional goal of fraternity.

(A shorter version of this piece appeared in Firstpost here: 3185064.html.)An earlier version of this article appeared in the Web Exclusives section in the EPW digital edition.

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Abhiram Singh v C D Commachen (2017), widening the ban on sectarian appeals during election campaigns, must be welcomed as a positive and necessary step towards free and fair elections.

While sectarian appeals to religion, caste, community, race and language have been banned in some form since the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RPA) came into force, the true scope of such a ban has finally been made clear by the seven-judge bench after much muddled controversy on the point.

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Updated On : 13th Jan, 2017
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