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Assembly Elections 2017: EC says will abide by SC verdict to try to keep use of religion, caste out of campaign

While announcing the date for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur, CEC Nasim Zaidi said the EC is committed to follow the SC’s order on Hindutva case. In a landmark judgement seeking to separate religion, caste and other issues from politics, the SC held as ‘corrupt’ the practice of candidates appealing for votes on the basis of the aforementioned identities, including not only him but his agents and voters.

In a landmark verdict seeking to separate religion, caste and other issues from politics, the Supreme Court, by a majority verdict, today held as “corrupt” the practice of candidates appealing for votes on the basis of these identities included not only him but his agents and voters. In a marked departure from the view held in the 1995 “Hindutva” judgement that the term ‘his’ used in section 123 (3 )of the Representation of the People Act meant the religion, caste, etc of candidates only, a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, by a majority of 4:3, held today that any appeal for votes on these grounds would amount to “corrupt practice”.

The court held that the provisions of the R P Act, which say that seeking vote by a candidate in the name of “his” religion, caste, race, religion and language in the election law, included candidates, his agents and voters also.

“An appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is impermissible under the R P Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice sufficient to annul the election in which such an appeal was made regardless whether the appeal was in the name of the candidate’s religion or the religion of the election agent or that of the opponent or that of the voter’s,” the CJI, who concurred with majority verdict written by Justice M B Lokur, said.

“so read together, and for maintaining the purity of the electoral process and not vitiating it, sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the RP Act must be given a broad and purposive interpretation thereby bringing within the sweep of a corrupt practice any appeal made to an elector by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate on the ground of the religion, race, caste, community or language of (i) any candidate or (ii) his agent or (iii) any other person making the appeal with the consent of the candidate or (iv) the elector,” said the majority view, also shared by Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao, said, Justice Chandrachud, writing the minority verdict.

“we hold that there is no necessity for this court to take a view at variance with what has been laid down.

EC assures free, fair elections by curbing muscle power, abuse of money​

‘There will be strict expenditure monitor mechanism to curb black money. The Election Commission of India will ensure level playing field for inclusive, free and fair elections by curbing muscle power and abuse of money,’ Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi told a press conference here. The Election Commission also limited the expenses for candidates to be spent during the election to Rs. 28 lakh in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Rs. 20 lakh for Manipur and Goa.

Zaidi also said there will be complete accountability of photo voter slips and this year colourful voter guides will be distributed to each family. The posters were a statutory requirement at all polling stations, he said.

A voting assistance booth would also be kept at the polling stations. The Commission, which will launch awareness program in all these five states, urged the various parties and candidates to avoid hazardous materials like plastic in their election campaigns. ‘As far as sound pollution is a concern, there will be no use of loudspeakers after 10 p.m. The police and electoral officers will ensure clampdown on it,’ Zaidi said.

He also informed that 1,85,000 polling stations will be covered and nearly 160 million voters will participate in the polls.

In wake of the complaint received earlier, the Election Commission has also raised the height of voting compartments to 30-inch for maintaining secrecy.

A separate polling station for women’s will be introduced in some places which will be managed by women.

Around 690 legislative assemblies will go to polls, out of which 133 are reserved for Schedule Caste and 23 are reserved of Schedule Tribe as per the delimitation order of 2008.

There will be seven-phase polling for 403 assembly constituencies in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, two-phase polling in Manipur and one-phase polling each in the states of Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa respectively. Zaidi said that the counting of votes in all the five states will take place on March 11.

With inputs from agencies