After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it was concluded in a survey by Association of democratic reforms that nearly 43% of the newly elected members of the lower house have criminal cases against them.
In the 2004 national election, the percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24% which rose to 33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% in 2019.
Thus, the increase in the member parliaments with criminal charges in these times will cause a strong impact among the faith of citizens of India in the democratic structure and its functioning mechanism.
This can cause disastrous effects among the democratic spirit of the people and the faith they put up in the Constitution.
Causes of criminalisation of politics in India:
There can be different causes of criminalisation of politics in India.
- In India, in most cases, there is a nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
- This connection can be due to the muscle power of the criminals in their areas and their influence over the people which can indeed prove to be a bliss upon the politicians when they go for the election campaigning to win and in return the criminals get immunity from prosecution and support from the administration to run their illegal works.
- This nexus can prove to be a ticket for the criminals to contest for the election.
- The criminalization of politics can also be due to the lack of awareness of the people to choose their representatives and the lack of knowledge about the representatives due to which criminals are very often elected as MLAs and MPs.
- The use of caste and religion is very common in a country like India where we have people with different cultures, languages and religions.
Provisions in the Indian Constitution to uphold fair and free elections in India:
- Article 324 of the Indian Constitution grants powers to the Election Commission of India to direct and control free and fair elections in India. The powers of Superintendence have been vested in the Election Commission.
- Article 325 of the Constitution ensures universal suffrage and provides that no person be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
- Article 102 of the Constitution sets grounds for disqualification of MPs whereas Article 191 sets out the same grounds for disqualification for member legislative assemblies.
- The Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 also provides a legal framework for the conduct of elections in India.
- The key provisions of the act include allocation of seats in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils of States.
- The Act also lays down procedures for electoral rolls and the manner of filling seats. There are provisions under ROPA for disqualification of candidates.
- The President of India can also delimit constituencies but after consulting with the Election Commission of India.
- In addition to all these, the Financial Bill of 2017 encompassed provisions which laid down that no party would receive an amount exceeding Rs. 2,000 per person as donation.
Educational Awareness and Trust in politicians:
Higher levels of education are negatively related to trust in politicians.
- Those with matriculation and higher levels of education are deeply sceptical, relative to the illiterates, as they are likely to be better aware of political skulduggery and shenanigans and not so easily swayed by rhetoric.
- The caste hierarchy throws up a fascinating contrast. Both the Brahmins who are at the top of this hierarchy and Dalits who are at the lower rung express high trust in politicians, relative to the Other Backward Classes, but perhaps for very different reasons.
- While as long as the superiority of Brahmins is not challenged and Dalits are protected through affirmative action, they are more likely to repose high trust in politicians.
- Affiliation to social networks, two or more is positively associated with greater trust in politicians, as manifestation of collective identity, relative to those not affiliated to any.
- Congruence of the needs of the electorates with politicians who serve their interests better matters.
- This is validated by how successful social safety net programmes are. For example, while widows’ pension and the Annapurna Scheme (10 kg of food grain to eligible aged persons who have remained uncovered under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme)are negatively related to trust in politicians, disability pension is positively related.
- What is indeed alarming is that the probabilities of Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies winning elections is about three times higher, relative to those without a criminal background.
- More autonomy should be provided to the Election Commission of India and powers to impose punitive sanctions should be granted as the courts alone cannot carve out and impose the provisions.
- The bureaucracy should act more proactively in shattering the political-corporate nexus.
- The party heads should ensure transparency between the people and the party and should improve the inner-party democracy.
- Permanent Debarment: Many committees made an important submission that any person who is convicted for heinous crimes such as murder, rape, dacoity, smuggling, etc. should be disbarred permanently from contesting in the elections.
- Establish Fast Track Courts to dispose such cases related to electoral Candidates:
- There is an inherent need to supersede the existing judicial hierarchy and establish fast-track courts to accomplish this purpose.
- This encompasses a quick trial within six months from the time charges are framed so as to determine whether or not a candidate is qualified to hold office and applies to the post vide public elections.
- The Vohra Committees Report Analysis on “Criminalisation of Politics” should be given more attention.
To conclude, high levels of criminality could wreck India’s democracy and imperil well-being.
“In politics nothing is contemptible,” warned Benjamin Disraeli, a novelist, essayist, a Conservative politician and twice Prime Minister of England.
He was of course largely right, as many politicians have criminal backgrounds and resort to lies.
But there are also some who identify with the electorates, sensitive to their needs, and display a vision which transcends party politics.