Taking a stand on religion-based politics in India, Supreme Court on Monday said no politician can seek a vote in the name of caste, creed, or religion.

In its verdict on 1995 hindutva judgement, the seven-judge constitution bench of the apex court further stated that election was a secular exercise.

“Election is a secular exercise and thereby its way and its process should be followed also. Function of an elected representative should be secular,” it said.

“Relationship between man and God is an individual choice and state is forbidden to such an activity,” the apex court said further.

Earlier, during the hearing by a seven judge Constitutional bench, the apex court had said that it won’t reconsider 1995 judgment which defined Hindutva as “a way of life and not a religion.”

The observations came after an on interlocutory application filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad requested the bench to reconsider the 1995 judgment. A seven-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, said the court will not go into the larger debate as to what is Hindutva or what its meaning is and will not reconsider the 1995 judgment. The apex court bench also comprised Justices M B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageshwar Rao.

What was the 1995 Hindutva Judgement about?

On December 11, 1995, a three judge Bench of the Supreme Court delivered judgments in a number of appeals which arose from decisions of the Bombay High Court relating to the validity of the elections of certain Shiv Sena -BJP candidates to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. The Bombay High Court had set aside the elections of these candidates mainly on the ground that they had committed a corrupt practice as defined by Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which consists of “the appeal 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 any person on the ground of his religion…”

The court came to the conclusion that the words “Hinduism” or “Hindutva” are not necessarily to be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the People of India depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Since then, the issue was raised in the top court many times, including in 2002 when the court referred the matter to a seven-judge bench for clarity.