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Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen & Ors (1996) 3 SCC 665

Citation(1996) 3 SCC 665
Date of Judgment2 January, 2017
CourtSupreme Court of India
Case TypeCivil appellate 
AppellantAbhiram Singh
RespondentC.D commachen legal representative 
BenchChief Justice Mr. T. S. Thakur Justice Mr. Adarsh Kumar Goel,Justice Uday Umesh Lalit Justice Mr. Madan B. LokurJustice Mr. Nageswara Rao Justice Mr. S.A. BobdeJustice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud  
Referred Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. Article 19 of The constitution of India


This matter came into play when Abhiram Singh, a BJP candidate running in Mumbai’s Santacruz constituency in 1990, was charged by Commachen in the Bombay High Court with engaging in corrupt practises by appealing to voters on the basis of religion. On April 16, 1992, a three-judge panel transmitted its opinion, breadth, and definition of corrupt practices as defined by subsections (3) and (3A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

In Narayan Singh v. Sunderlal Patwa, it was argued that Sunderlal Patwa’s election to the Legislative Assembly in 1993 from the Bhojpur Constituency No. 245 in Madhya Pradesh violated section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act by using religion during the campaign. In light of certain observations

On January 30, as the five-judge bench was hearing the Abhiram Singh case, it was discovered that a similar issue had been raised in the political race appeal filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP founder Sunderlal Patwa, and that another Constitution Bench of five supreme court justices had been transferred to a larger bench of seven justices. The Supreme Court was then asked to decide whether Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of the People Act applied in this case.


  1. Whether the Representation of the People Act, 1951’s Section 123(3) violates Article 19(1) A of the Indian Constitution, which protects the right to free speech and limits the candidate’s political speech in some way ?
  2. Whether the phrase “his religion” in Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, is limited to incorporating only the candidate’s religion or the religion of his agent or any other person with the candidate’s consent, or if it extends to incorporating the voters’ religion as well ?


Naturally, in order to carry any appeal in a reference to religion, the word “his” employed in subsection (3) must be meaningful and cannot be substituted with the word “any.” The belief that motivates someone’s decision to vote or not must also be the motivation behind their choice of candidate.

 This is a result of part 3’s straightforward language, which is the primary means through which the word “his” can be established or defined. When a candidate makes a call to vote, the call is based on “his” faith with the intention of supporting the candidate’s election.  

The requirement is based on a candidate’s belief in the expectation that his choice will be the right one, on the other hand, when applying the effect of the election of candidates by not voting for anybody because of their “own” faith. Therefore, it is evident that the unspoken alliance (appeal) to support the rising star is founded on the ideologies of other candidates seeking votes, where the organisation won’t be financially successful.

While appealing to voters on the basis of caste, race, community, or religion under the pre-amended provision would be considered corrupt practise, doing so under the amended provision would not be considered corrupt so long as the candidate does not appeal to voters on the basis of his religion even though he appealed to voters on the basis of voters’ religion.

The historical, political, and constitutional context of our democratic system needed to be mentioned in order to address the damage that sub-sections (2), (3), and (3A) of Section 123 of the Act intended to suppress. It was stated in this context that our Constitution’s authors wanted a secular, democratic republic where differences shouldn’t be used against people.


The 7-Judge Bench gave a landmark decision in which it was determined that an appeal on the basis of religion — made by the candidate, the candidate’s agent, any person with the candidate’s consent, or even the voters’ religion — would constitute a corrupt practice by a majority of 4:3. Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Bobde also concurred in this decision. The terms of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, were exposed broadly by the majority in its judgement, and its purview has been broadened to include any appeal on the basis of race, religion, caste, or language.

Considering the majority opinion in this case, T.S. Thakur, CJ, Madan B. Lokur, L.Nageswar Rao, and S.A. Bobde, JJ, interpreted the word “his” under Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to mean that, even after amendment, religion, race, caste, community, or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process. Should an appeal be made on any of those considerations. A candidate or his election agent, or any other person with the candidate’s or his election agent’s consent, may appeal to an elector to vote or refrain from voting in order to further the election’s rules. However, the court ruled that this interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 must be given a broad interpretation to avoid violating the election’s integrity.

On the other side, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Adarsh K. Goel, and U.U. Lalit, J. were of the opinion that the ‘his’ in Section 123(3) of the RoP Act does not pertain to the voter’s language, caste, race, or religion. The word “his” is to be understood as referring to the candidate’s religion, race, caste, community, or language, or to the candidate against whom a call to abstain from voting. It has been stated that while a democratic constitution and its practical opening to the public may have shortcomings, these deficiencies cannot be fixed through judicial redrafting of a legislative provision.




Constitution of India 1950

The Representation of People’s Act 1951

This Article is written by Aditi Shakyai of Institution of Law, Jiwaji University Gwalior, Intern at Legal Vidhiya.


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