The Supreme Court declined a plea of social activist Teesta Setalvad to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgment defining Hindutva or Hinduism as a “way of life” and nothing to do with “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”.
“We will not go into the larger debate as to what is Hindutva or what is its meaning. We will not re-consider the 1995 judgment and also not examine Hindutva or religion at this stage,” a seven-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.
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.
While setting aside a number of pleas in this regard, the apex court bench stated that there is no mention of word ‘Hindutva’ in the reference for which the 7-member bench has been set up.
We will not go into larger debate at this stage on what ‘Hindutva’ means, the apex court bench said.
“If anybody will show that there is a reference to the word ‘Hindutva’, we will hear him. We will not go into ‘Hindutva’ at this stage, it clarified.
The ambit of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act, provides for the disqualification of a candidate, if he, or any one on his behalf, is found “promoting or attempting to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, for furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate”.
The 1990 plea the SC is considering is to do with the Maharashtra assembly polls where Shiv Sena and BJP candidates allegedly used two speeches by Bal Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan – both now deceased – to seek votes in the name of Hindutva and the Hindu rashtra. Petitions were filed against many winning candidates of Shiv Sena and BJP in 1990 and the Bombay HC disqualified them.