Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said India’s armed forces are an embodiment of the country’s secular project and it is vitally important to keep them uncontaminated from any sectarian appeal, PTI reported.

The judiciary should not lose sight of its primary duty to protect the Constitution’s secular spirit as political disputes and electoral battles were becoming increasingly filled with religious overtones and prejudices, he added.

The former prime minister made the remarks while delivering the second AB Bardhan memorial lecture at Constitution Club in New Delhi. Bardhan was a general secretary of the Communist Party of India. He died in 2016.

“I will be amiss if I did not mention the Election Commission and its role in preserving the secular fabric of the republic,” Singh said. “As the custodian of the integrity of the electoral process, it is incumbent upon the Election Commission to see to it that religion and religious sentiments and prejudices do not get worked into the election discourse.” He urged the poll panel to roll back “the easy acceptance of over-manipulation of religious imagery”.