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7-judge SC bench to decide on legality of seeking votes in the name of religion
Whether seeking votes in the name of religion is a corrupt practice or not, the Supreme Court (SC) will examine today. The case will be heard by seven judges of the apex court.
The court is set to re-examine its 20-year-old judgment that had upheld that Hinduism is a way of life and a state of mind and not a religion and thus seeking votes on the basis of Hinduism does not constitute a corrupt practice.

The case that is being heard by the SC dates back to 1995 which was earlier being heard by the Bombay High Court. The case was filed for violation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act arguing that it is illegal to seek votes in the name of the religion.

The petitioner had argued that the candidates in question had appealed to voters on religious grounds while contesting election for the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.

The Bombay High Court had canceled the elections of nine BJP candidates as during the campaigning, they had sought votes to create a "Hindu state". A three-judge SC bench led by justice J S Verma had later overturned this order. The bench had ruled that Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion. Thus, seeking votes on the basis of Hinduism cannot be termed as illegal under the Representation of the People Act.

The verdict received strong criticism and was immediately challenged. Various experts and activists had argued that the bench had erred while making the judgment and that this verdict challenges the secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution.

A year later, another bench that was hearing the case had disagreed with Justice Verma's verdict and suggested that the case should be heard by a five-member SC bench. During the hearing of the case, it was suggested that the case should be heard by a seven-member bench.

The seven-member bench that is now hearing the case will be headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur. The other members of the bench are justices Madan B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel, U.U. Lalit, D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao.

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