Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte & Ors (1995)

CaseDr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte & Ors along with Bal Thackeray v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte & Ors.
CourtBefore the Supreme Court of India
BenchJ.S.Verma, N.P.Singh, K. Venkataswamy, JJ.
Author of the JudgmentJ.S.Verma, J.
Counsel for the AppellantRam Jethmalani
Counsel for the RespondentAshok Desai
Date of the Judgment11.12.1995
AbstractIn the present case, allegations have been made against Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo for corrupt practices. The charge of these corrupt practices were based on three speeches which were delivered by Bal Thackeray. The arguments with regards difference between Hindutva and Hindusim were raised in the present appeal. The ratio which was laid down by the court in differentiating between Hindutva and Hinduism is quite interesting,
Author of the briefAbhishek Vyas and Darshan Patankar, Student at Gujarat National Law University.
KeywordsRepresentation of People's Act, Maharashtra State Legislative Elections, Hindutva, Hinduism.
 

Facts: – The appeals in the present case were filed under Section 116 A of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) against the judgment dated 07.04.1989 of the Bombay High Court in Election Petition No. 1 of 1988 by which the election of Dr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo, the returned candidate from Vile Parle Constituency to the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, held on 13.12.1987 was declared to be void on the ground of corrupt practices under Section 100 (1) (b) of the Act. Further, the Appellants were found to be guilty of corrupt practices under Sections 123 (3) and 123 (3 A) of the Act where Ramesh Prabhoo and Bal Thackeray appealed for votes on the ground of Prabhoo’s religion and that they promoted or tended to promote feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens of India on the grounds of religion and community. The charge of these corrupt practices is based on three public speeches delivered by Bal Thackeray: –

(1) On 29.11.1987 at Parle (opposite Shiv Sena Shaka no. 84)

(2) On 09.12. 1987 at Khar Danda near Shankar Temple

(3) On 10.12.1987 at Jaltaran Maidan, Vile Parle East

In these three speeches, the appellants had appealed to canvas votes in favour of Prabhoo on the ground of religion and make it appear to the voters that Dr.Prabhoo was the only person who could represent the Hindu Community. To prove these allegations, the Petitioner before the High Court (now Respondent) had relied upon certain newspaper articles in which the speeches had been published. The High Court set aside the election of the returned candidate. That gave rise to the present set of appeals.

Appellants Contention: – Ram Jethmalani, Learned Counsel for the Appellants made the following contentions: –

(1) That Sub- Sections (3) and (3A) of Section 123 of the Act are Constitutionally Invalid being violative of Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

(2) To save both the provisions from being unconstitutional, they must be read as reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order to get the protection of Article 19 (2) of the Constitution. He submitted that unless the speech was prejudicial to the maintenance of public order, it cannot fall within the net of either Section 123 (3) or 123 (3A) of the Act.

(3) It was contended that a speech in which there be a reference to religion but no direct appeal for votes on the ground of his religion, does not come within the net of Sub-Section 3

(4) The Public Speeches in question did not amount to appeal for votes on the ground of religion and the substance and thrust thereof were “Hindutva” which means Indian Culture and not merely the Hindu Religion.

(5) The Public Speeches criticised the anti- secular stance of the Congress Party in practising discrimination against Hindus and giving undue favour to the Minorities which is not an appeal for votes on the ground of Hindu Religion.

(6) The Notice issued to Bal Thackeray under Section 99 of the Act was devoid of the requirements stipulated in Section 99 and that the notice was never informed of the precise charge against him.

(7) Lastly, it was submitted that the High Court had decided the Petition based on general impressions and vague assertions.

Respondents Contention: – Ashok Desai, Learned Counsel for the Respondents submitted that the Constitutional Validity of these provisions was no longer res integra by relying on the Constitution Bench Decision in Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya v. Lachhi Ram (1954). Further, he submitted that the Freedom of Speech guaranteed in the Constitution does not extend to giving speeches of the kind given by Bal Thackeray and, at any rate, these provisions imposed reasonable restrictions on the Freedom of Speech which is saved by Article 19 (2) of the Constitution. Also, he submitted that each one of the speeches in question was a highly incendiary containing appeal to vote for Dr Prabhoo because he was a Hindu and that it also tended to promote enmity and hatred between Hindus and Muslims. According to Mr Desai, each one of the speeches amounted to a corrupt practice within the provisions of Sections 123(3) and (3A) of the Act.

Decision of the Court: – Authored by J.S.Verma, J.

(1) The Bench upheld the Constitutionality of the impugned provisions of the act and held that Sub-Section 3 of Section 123 has the protection of Clause (2) of Article 19 under the head “decency” therein and therefore the impugned provision was saved.

(2) The Court held that the terms “Hindutva” and “Hinduism” cannot 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. Further, the bench held that unless the context of a speech indicates a contrary meaning or use, in the abstract these terms are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practising the Hindu Religion as a faith.

(3) The Court rejected the argument that the element of prejudicial effect on public order is implicit also in Sub-Section 3 as it is in Sub-Section 3A for the application of those provisions.

(4) Also, the Court opined that the contention of the Appellants as per which no notice was given to Bal Thackeray as per Section 99 of the Act had no merit. The Court observed that notice had been given and the necessary requirements of Section 99 had been complied with.

(5) Lastly, the Court observed that the appeal made by the voters by Bal Thackeray in his speeches was a clear appeal to the Hindu Voters to vote for Dr Ramesh Prabhoo because he was a Hindu. He had also referred to Muslims as “Snake” and “Lande” and the language used in the context amounted to an attempt to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between Hindus and Muslims on the ground of Religion and constituted a corrupt practice within the meaning of Section 123 (3A).

(6) The Court held both Dr Ramesh Prabhoo and Bal Thackeray guilty of corrupt practices under Representation of Peoples Act and accordingly, both appeals were dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Ratio: – The terms “Hindutva” and “Hinduism” are not confined only to the strict religious Hindu Practices but also include the culture and ethos of the people of India which depicts the way of life of the Indian People.