A Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has said that it will hear a pending petition seeking for a revision of the term “Hindutva”, which was defined as a way of life by the apex court earlier. The court will hear arguments from both sides whether a candidate could be disqualified for the use of “Hindutva” while seeking votes.
CJI Bobde noted, “Their prayer is to offset the ‘Hindutva’ judgment. It will take time as long arguments are expected on the issue. We will try to hear this petition after completing hearing in the Sabarimala case.”
In Dr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo vs Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte judgement in 1995, a 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Verma had said, “Mere use of the word ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ or mention of any other religion in an election speech does not bring it within the net of sub-section (3) and/or sub-section (3A) of Section 123 (of the 1951 Representation of People Act) unless the further elements indicated are also present in that speech.”
The Supreme Court observed that Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent. The Bench had further added, “no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms `Hindu’, `Hindutva’ and `Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage”.
Justice Verma had dismissed the idea of equating the abstract terms “Hindutva or Hinduism” with the “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”.
The Supreme Court ruling came after Dr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo, the candidate from Vile Parle Constituency in Maharastra State Assembly elections of 1987, had filed an appeal seeking for revocation of his disqualification ordered by Bombay High Court for asking votes in the name of religion. Nevertheless, Prabhoo’s disqualification was upheld by the Supreme Court.
In 2016, a seven-judge Bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of India, T.S. Thakur, dismissed a petition filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad, author Shamsul Islam and senior journalist Dilip Mandal who argued that the interpretation of the 1995 judgement has supposedly led to “Hindutva becoming a mark of nationalism and citizenship.”