Insights into Editorial: Enact ‘strong law’ to cleanse politics: SC

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Insights into Editorial: Enact ‘strong law’ to cleanse politics: SC


 

Context:

The Supreme Court directed political parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their candidates.

SC urged Parliament to bring a “strong law” to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.

Parliament should frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes, such as rape, murder and kidnapping, to name a few and refuse ticket to offenders in both Parliamentary and Assembly polls.

 

Criminalisation of politics:

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.

The criminals need the patronage of politicians occupying public offices to continue with their criminal activities and the politicians need the money and muscle power that the criminals can offer to the politicians to win elections.

In course of time, the nexus led the criminals themselves to contest elections.

Criminalisation of politics strikes at the very root of democracy by making the citizenry suffer at the hands of those “who are nothing but a liability” to the country.

  1. N. Vohra Committee studied the problem of criminalisation of politics and the nexus among the criminals, politicians and bureaucrats.

It concluded that the agencies including CBI, IB, RAW had expressed their opinion that the criminal network was virtually running a parallel Government

 

Key facts:

  • According to reports by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 185 winning candidates in the 2014 general elections had criminal cases against them compared to 162 in the 2009 polls.

 

  • Similarly, in 2009, 15 percent of the winners had serious criminal cases, such as “murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women” against them. This rose to 21 percent in 2014.

 

 

  • The 2014 ADR report shows that the chances of winning for a candidate with criminal cases was more than for one with a clean record.
  • Around 21 per cent of 5,380 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha election 2014 have declared criminal charges in their affidavits submitted to the Election Commission.

 

  • 10 per cent have declared serious criminal charges such as murder and rape charges.
  • The Law Commission said that, in the 10 years since 2004, 18% of the candidates contesting either national or state elections had criminal cases against them.

 

  • The Law Commission in its 244th report said that instead of politicians having suspected links to criminal networks, it was persons with extensive criminal backgrounds, who began entering politics.
  • The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms, as early as in 1990, highlighted the crippling effect of money and muscle power in elections.

 

Suggested measure to curb criminalization of politics:

  • Bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters.
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law.

 

  • Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.
  • Fast-track courts are necessary because politicians are able to delay the judicial process and serve for decades before prosecution.
  • The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.

 

  • The forms prescribed by the Election Commission for candidates disclosing their convictions, cases pending in courts and so on in their nomination papers is a step in the right direction if it applied properly.

 

  • The Supreme Court referred to the Law Commission reports, which pointed out that political parties have been chiefly responsible for criminalisation of politics.

 

 

  • Though the Representation of the People Act disqualifies a sitting legislator or a candidate on certain grounds, there is nothing regulating the appointments to offices within the party.

 

  • A politician may be disqualified from being a legislator, but he may continue to hold high positions within the party. That means, he will continue to play an important public role.

 

 

  • Convicted politicians may continue to influence law-making by controlling the party and fielding proxy candidates in legislature.

 

Criminalisation in politics: SC Bench quotes Rajendra prasad, Ambedkar: (can be used in Essay, GS4 as well)

Rajendra Prasad, who said, “A Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them.”

In words of B.R. Ambedkar, “A Constitution can provide only the organs of State. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.

 

Conclusion:

The 18th report presented by a Parliamentary Committee to the Rajya Sabha in March 2007, expressed strong feeling that politics should be cleansed of persons with established criminal background.

Criminalisation of politics is the bane of society and negation of democracy.

The primary sacrifice at the altar of criminalisation is that of governance, along with transparency and accountability.

Expensive election campaigning favours candidates with strong financial background. Such candidates, when elected, seek to recover their expenses besides securing a corpus for the future election as quickly as possible, especially in the era of coalition governments with tenuous stability.

Supreme court observed that rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by “cleansing” political parties.