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Indian Case Summary

Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo vs Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte & … on 11 December, 1995 – Case Summary

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In the case of Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo vs Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment on 11th December 1995, which had significant implications on the interpretation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The case revolved around the election of Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo, a candidate from the Vile Parle Constituency to the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, which was held on 13th December 1987.

Facts of the Case

The election was contested by Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo, who was set up as a candidate of the Shiv Sena, a political party not recognized at the time for the purpose of Legislative Assembly elections. Consequently, Dr. Prabhoo’s candidature was shown as “Shiv Sena – Independent”. The leader of Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray, participated in the election campaign of Dr. Prabhoo as the main speaker. The election was held on 13th December 1987, and Dr. Prabhoo was declared the winner on 14th December 1987.

Issues Raised

The election was challenged by Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte, who alleged that Dr. Prabhoo and his agent, Bal Thackeray, had indulged in corrupt practices as defined under sub-Sections (3) and (3A) of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The allegations were based on three public speeches delivered by Bal Thackeray during the election campaign, which were claimed to appeal for votes on the ground of the candidate’s religion and promote feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens on the grounds of religion and community.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the speeches delivered by Bal Thackeray were in very intemperate language and incendiary in nature, appealing to the voters to vote for Dr. Prabhoo because of his religion, i.e., he being a Hindu. The speeches also promoted or tended to promote enmity and hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on the ground of religion. The court held that these speeches amounted to corrupt practices under sub-sections (3) and (3A) of Section 123 of the Act.

The court also examined the constitutional validity of sub-sections (3) and (3A) of Section 123 of the Act, which were challenged by the appellants. The court held that these provisions were not violative of the guarantee of free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The court also held that the provisions imposed reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech, which were saved by Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

As a result of these findings, the court declared the election of Dr. Prabhoo to be void on the ground under Section 100(1)(b) of the Act, and Bal Thackeray was named for commission of these corrupt practices. The court’s decision in this case has had a significant impact on the interpretation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, particularly in relation to the use of religion in election campaigns.