Published On : Thu, May 10th, 2018

SC rejects Muthaliks plea on Congress manifesto for Karnataka polls


New Delhi: The Supreme Court today observed that assuring the minorities on alleviation of their socio-economic backwardness does not amount to corrupt practice and rejected Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief Pramod Muthaliks plea alleging that Congress was seeking votes by using religion in its poll manifesto in Karnataka.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also referred to various judgements and said since 1952 till 2017, the top court has ruled that “once the poll process begins, no court shall interfere with it”.

The counsel for Muthalik referred to a 7-judge bench judgement of 2017 and said it has been held that the practice of seeking votes in the name of religion was a “corrupt” act.

He sought a direction from the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, that the Congress be asked to remove certain clauses from its manifesto assuring sops to minorities on the ground of religion.

“Assuring minorities to alleviate their social and economic backwardness is not an appeal to seek votes in the name of religion,” the bench said, dismissing Muthaliks plea.

The court then said that the 7-judge bench judgement had dealt with the term his used in section 123 (3)of the Representation of the People Act and seeking votes in the name of religion, caste, etc. It was held that the term “his” included candidate, his or her agents and voters as well, the bench said.

The apex court, on January 2, 2017, had delivered a landmark verdict to separate religion, caste and other issues from politics and by a majority of 4:3 had held as “corrupt” the practice of candidates appealing for votes on the basis of such identities.

While dismissing Muthaliks plea, the bench said though it cannot interfere with the Karnataka poll process as the voting was scheduled on May 12, statutory remedies can be availed after election results are declared.

The right-wing Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief had sought directions to the Election Commission to delete the Congress partys alleged appeal in its manifesto.

The plea had alleged that the appeal to vote on religious basis was made in pages 36 and 37 of the manifesto in the section headlined Social justice-strengthening the social fabric for smooth progress.

Under the sub-head ensure right to equality in the manifesto released on April 27, the Congress proposes to ?improve social and economic status of minorities? by allocating more budget for their welfare programmes.

Besides a proposal to establish Madrasa Board, it talks about Christian development board to manage the affairs of Christian community. It also proposes to construct 1,000 Maulana Azad schools in the state.

In the relevant pages, the Congress promised an insurance scheme for health and childrens education of minority auto and taxi drivers in the manifesto. It also speaks of upgrading Morarji Desai Schools with hostels for girls, under the sub-heading of the ensure right to equality of the Congress manifesto.

Muthaliks petition sought disqualification of Congress candidates and derecognition of the Congress as a national party.

The Assembly election in Karnataka is slated for May 12 and the results are scheduled to be announced on May 15.