A seven judge bench of the Supreme Court is going to deliberate on its 1995 verdict that defined ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ as a ‘way of life’.
While reinstating Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi and the BJP’s Ramchandra Kapse assembly election victories, Justice JS Verma had observed, “It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on Hindu religion as opposed to other religions.”
His bench, in fact, further said that ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ represented India’s people and its cultural ethos – “It may well be that these words are used in the speech to promote secularism and to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant.”
It was an epoch-defining judgment which cleared the path of the BJP and the like-minded parties who weaved their politics on Hinduism and Hindutva as it removed the legal hurdle due to the interpretation of ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ as under religion and thus as corrupt practices under the Representation of People (RPA) Act.
Its Section 123 (3-A) says, “The promotion of, 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.”
And that defines one of the many corrupt practices it lays norms for.
Now, according to this landmark judgment, any electoral practice aimed at influencing voters in the name of ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ doesn’t constitute the case for corruption because Hindutva is not a religion but an all-encompassing term that defines the Indian way of life.
But the verdict has not been beyond questions, even from different judges of the Supreme Court. So anything can happen tomorrow.