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Criminalisation Of Politics

Criminalisation Of Politics

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that forced them to field suspected criminals.
  • The order was a reply to the contempt petition about the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India) to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.
  • The SC passed an order while exercising powers under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution which deals with the contempt power of the Supreme Court and enforcement of its decrees and orders.

Introduction

  • Criminalization of Politics means that the criminals entering the politics and contesting elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature.
  • It takes place primarily because of the nexus between the criminals and some of the politicians.          (Criminalisation Of Politics )

Present situation

  • Cases on 43% MPs: Out of 542 MPs, 233 i.e. 43% MPs have criminal cases pending. According to the affidavits, 159 i.e. 29 percent of MPs have serious cases pending against them like murder, rape and kidnapping.
  • 204 cases against Congress MP Kuriakose: Newly elected Congress MP from Kerala Dean Kuriakose is the first in the list with 204 pending cases. 29 out of 52 Congress MPs are involved in criminal cases
  • Tainted 116 elected BJP MPs: An analysis of affidavits of 301 out of 303 BJP MPs found that criminal cases were going on against 116 MPs including Sadhvi Pragya Singh.
  • Cases on the highest number of MPs in Bihar and Bengal: Kerala and Bihar got the maximum number of MPs caught in criminal cases. Cases are pending on 90 per cent elected from Kerala, 82 per cent from Bihar, 55 per cent from West Bengal, 56 from Uttar Pradesh and 58 per cent from Maharashtra. On the other hand, the least nine percent of MPs are from Chhattisgarh and 15 percent from Gujarat.
  • All major parties have tainted MPs: All six elected members of the ruling RJD’s constituent LJP, half of the BSP (5 out of 10), 13 of the JUDY’s 16, nine of the Trinamool Congress’s 22 and three of the CPI-M. Two MPs are facing criminal cases. In this case, only one member of the 12 elected BJD MPs has declared the affidavit of criminal case against them.
  • 34% tainted in 16th Lok Sabha: Number of such MPs elected in 2014 election was 185 (34 percent), 112 MPs were running on serious cases.

SC Recent Directions

  • It is mandatory for all political parties to publish all details regarding pending criminal cases against their chosen candidates, not only in local newspapers, but also on party websites and social media handles.
  • Along with the details of pending cases, the parties will also have to publish “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates”.
  • The “reasons” given for selection of the candidates have to be “with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere ‘winnability’ at the polls”.                  (Criminalisation Of Politics )

Previous judgements

  • In 2017, it asked the Centre to frame a scheme to appoint special courts to exclusively try cases against politicians, and for political parties to publicise pending criminal cases faced by their candidates in 2018.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court in the case Lily Thomas vs. Union of India ruled that a sitting MP and MLA convicted of a jail term of two years or more would lose their seat in the legislature immediately.
  • Further, Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction, was declared unconstitutional.
  • The Supreme Court held that, if a lower court has convicted an individual, he cannot contest an election unless a higher court has overturned his conviction. Simply filing an appeal against the judgment of the lower court is not enough.
  • The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India, 2013 ruled that voters should have the option of “None of the above (NOTA)” on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to ensure the option for those who don’t find any candidate suitable.
  • The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to bring the issue of election-related ‘freebies’ under the ambit of the Code of Conduct.

Components

The criminalisation of our political system has various forms and components such as –

  • Muscle Power: In Indian politics, muscle power is not a new trend rather it has been a fact of life for a long time. Different political parties use muscle power to influence the attitude and conduct of sizable sections of the electorate.
  • Money Power: It is a widely accepted fact that the elections to Parliament and State Legislatures are very expensive and this huge election expenditure is the root cause for corruption in India. To gain vote bank, politician uses money power.
  • Gangsters: In most cases, the voters are too reluctant to take measures that would curtail the criminal activities. Many politicians chose gangster to gain larger vote bank.

Reasons for Criminalisation of Politics

Following are the reasons for the criminalization of politics in the Indian political system:

  • Irrelevant interference: The interference of politicians in the administration may be regarded as another reason for criminalisation of politics. It is increasing corruption and the net result is politics is, ultimately, criminalised.
  • Unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucracy: The most important cause of criminalisation of politics is the unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucracy. This undesirable and dangerous relationship between bureaucracy and political leaders opened the door of criminalisation of politics.
  • Political system: The system of party government is also responsible for the criminalisation of politics. On the eve of the general election, the leaders of the party give promises to the electorate. The purpose is to win the election.
  • Quota system: Caste and religion both are equally responsible for the criminalisation of politics. Though there are certain fixed procedures and rules in the promotion, caste and religion both interfere in this process.
  • Corruption: Institutionalization of corruption is an ongoing process in our politico-administrative system because the corrupting of the institutions, in turn, has finally led to the institutionalization of corruption.
  • Economic issues: Un-development, poverty, illiteracy and prismatic nature of Indian social system are collectively responsible for the criminalisation of politics.
  • Denial of Justice and Rule of Law: Today, there is very little faith in India in the efficacy of the democratic process is actually delivering good governance.
  • Loopholes in the functioning of ECI: Election commission merely informs the people about the information related to the candidate.

Consequences of Criminalisation of Politics

  • The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance.
  • It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow.
  • It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, diluting probity in public life.
  • These unhealthy tendencies in the democratic system reflect a poor image of the nature of India’s state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.

Measures of tackling

  • Right to Information Act and Criminalization of Politics:
    • The Court held that the right to information – the right to know antecedents, including the criminal past, or assets of candidates – was a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution and that the information was fundamental for survival of democracy. In its Judgment of May 2, 2002, it directed the Election Commission to call for information on affidavit from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or the State Legislature as a necessary part of the nomination papers on: whether the candidate has been convicted / acquitted / discharged of any criminal offence in the past – if any, whether the candidate was accused in any pending case of any offenses punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge was framed or cognizance taken by the court of law.
  • Vohra Committee:
    • Vohra Committee observes “the various crime syndicate / mafia organizations have developed significant muscle and money power and established linkage with governmental functionaries, political leaders and others to be able to operate with impunity. As integrated by the Vohra Committee our elections involve a lot of black Money and it is this use of black money in elections which has also brought about the criminalization of politics.
  • Supreme Court’s Judgment:
    • The Supreme Court judgment of May 2, 2002 mandated that candidates disclose their criminal antecedents, if any, as also their financial and educational background.

Conclusion

  • Corruption and criminalisation of politics is hitting at the roots of democracy.
  • Therefore, Parliament must take steps urgently to curb this menace.
  • Candidates and political parties must give wide publicity to criminal cases pending against her/him in the local media, both print and electronic, after s/he files nomination to contest elections.
  • (Criminalisation Of Politics )

 

Indian Polity

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