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Criminalization of Politics

 Category:Home \ Criminal law
 Article:

Criminalization of Politics

After 60 years of India’s independence the lives of commoners is far worse than under Britishers. The benefits of independence have reached only few, thus creating islands of few ultra rich people surrounded by vast sea of utterly poor. The rich people in nexus with those in power are getting favourable laws enacted to suit their ends. Those in power are shamelessly enjoying 5-star luxuries all at tax payer’s expense, while more then 50 million are starving to death. The criminalization of politics, executive & judiciary is almost complete. The corruption has spread its tentacles far & wide, there is corruption from womb to tomb, from maternity hospital to grave yard. The injustices mated out, the atrocities perpetrated by public servants are worse than Britishers. The biggest confounding factor in the political environment of business is criminalization of politics: people with criminal backgrounds becoming politicians and elected representatives. Around 20% of the members of the current Lok Sabha have criminal cases pending against them. The charges in several of these cases are of heinous crimes such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, and not just violation of Section 144, or something similar.

It is well known that all parties take the help of criminal elements to dominate the election scene in India. But this process is influencing the mind and the will of the people both to gain the majority to rule the country according to their will. The system of democracy is now changing into the dictatorship of some. Because the democracy of India are now in hands of the criminal who are not capable any way to hold the post if legislature.

Components:-
(1) Muscle Power:-
The influence of muscle power in Indian politics has been a fact of life for a long time. As early as in 1977, the National Police Commission headed by Dharam Vira observed: ``The manner in which different political parties have functioned, particularly on the eve of periodic election, involves the free use of musclemen and ‘Dadas’ to influence the attitude and conduct of sizable sections of the electorate. The Panchayat elections, like other elections in the recent past, have demonstrated once again that there can be no sanity in India as long as politics continues to be based on caste and

Gangsterism.
The politicians are thriving today on the basis of muscle power provided by criminals. The common people who constitute the voters are in most cases too reluctant to take measures that would curtail the criminal activities. Once the political aspect joins the criminal elements the nexus becomes extremely dangerous. Many of politicians chose muscle power to gain vote bank in the country, and they apply the assumption that, if we are unable to bring faith in the community then we can generate fear or threat to get the power in the form of election.

(2) Money Power:-
The elections to Parliament and State Legislatures are very expensive and it is a widely accepted fact that huge election expenditure is the root cause for corruption in India. A candidate has to spend lakhs of rupees to get elected and even if he gets elected, the total salary he gets during his tenure as an MP/MLA will be meagre compared to his election expenses. How can he bridge the gap between the income and expenses? Publicly through donations and secretly through illegal means. The expenditure estimation for an election estimated as Rs 5 per voter as election expenditure, for 600 million voters, and calculation of all the expenses in a general elaction estimated around Rs 2,000 crore. Then there is the period between elections. This requires around Rs 250 crore. Then there are state elections and local elections. All told, the system has to generate around Rs 5,000 crore in a five year cycle or Rs 1,000 crore on average each year. Where is this money to come from? Only criminal activity can generate such large sums of untaxed funds. That is why you have criminals in politics. They have money and muscle, so they win and help others in their party win as well.

Reasons Of This Criminalization:-
(1) Vote Bank:-
The political parties and independent candidates have astronomical expenditure for vote buying and other illegitimate purposes through these criminals or so called goondas. A politician’s link with them constituency provides a congenial climate to political crime. Those who do not know why they ought to vote comprise the majority of voters of this country. Therefore majority of the voters are manoeuvrable, purchasable. Most of them are individually timid and collectively coward. To gain their support is easier for the unscrupulous than the conscientious.

We have long witnessed criminals being wooed by political parties and given cabinet posts because their muscle and money power fetches crucial votes. Elections are won and lost on swings of just 1% of the vote, so parties cynically woo every possible vote bank, including those headed by accused robbers and murderers. Legal delays ensure that the accused will die of old age before being convicted, so parties virtuously insist that these chaps must be regarded as innocent till proved guilty.

(2) Corruption:-
In every election all parties without exception put up candidates with a criminal background. Even though some of us whine about the decision taken by the parties, the general trend is that these candidates are elected to office. By acting in such a manner we fail to realize that the greatest power that democracy arms the people is to vote incompetent people out of power.

Independence has taken place through a two-stage process. The first stage was the corrupting of the institutions and the second stage was the institutionalization of corruption. As we look at the corruption scene today, we find that we have reached this stage because the corrupting of the institutions in turn has finally led to the institutionalization of corruption. The failure to deal with corruption has bred contempt for the law. When there is contempt for the law and this is combined with the criminalization of politics, corruption flourishes. India is ranked 66 out of 85 in the Corruption Perception Index 1998 by the German non-government organization Transparency International based in Berlin. This means that 65 countries were perceived to be less corrupt than India and 19 were perceived to be more corrupt.

(3) Loop Holes In The Functioning Of Election Commission:-
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. Too much should not be expected, however, from these disclosures. They would only inform people of the candidate’s history and qualifications, but not prohibit them from casting their votes, regardless, in favour of a criminal.

For the past several general elections there has existed a gulf between the Election Commission and the voter. Common people hardly come to know the rules made by the commission. Bridging this gap is essential not only for rooting out undesirable elements from politics but also for the survival of our democratic polity. This is an incremental process, the rate of success of which is directly proportional to the increase in literacy rate in India. The electorate have made certain wrong choices in the past, but in the future national interest should guide them in making intelligent choices.

(4) Denial Of Justice And Rule Of Law: -
Criminalization is a fact of Indian electoral politics today. The voters, political parties and the law and order machinery of the state are all equally responsible for this. There is very little faith in India in the efficacy of the democratic process in actually delivering good governance. This extends to accepting criminalization of politics as a fact of life. Toothless laws against convicted criminals standing for elections further encourage this process. Under current law, only people who have been convicted at least on two counts be debarred from becoming candidates. This leaves the field open for charge sheeted criminals, many of whom are habitual offenders or history-sheeters. It is mystifying indeed why a person should be convicted on two counts to be disqualified from fighting elections. The real problem lies in the definitions. Thus, unless a person has been convicted, he is not a criminal. Mere charge-sheets and pending cases do not suffice as bars to being nominated to fight an election. So the law has to be changed accordingly.

Legal Threads:-
(1) Vohra Committee:-
12 bombs blasts that shook Bombay on 13 march 1993, had involved the collaboration of a diffuse network of criminal gangs, police and customs officials as well as their political

Patrons, a commission were institutes to investigate the so-called nexus. The report by N.N.Vohra found such deep involvement of politicians with organised crime all over India that it was barred from publication. Here Vohra observes "the various crime syndicate/mafia organisations have developed significant muscle and money power and established linkage with governmental functionaries, political leaders and other to be able to operate with impunity. As highlighted 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. After all, the story of the Hawala scam started by the police stumbling to the Jain diaries in their effort to trace the money received by the Kashmir militants. The scam brought out the linkage between the corrupt businessmen, politicians, bureaucracy and the criminals. The 1993 Bombay blasts which took away the life of 300 people was made possible because RDX could be smuggled by allegedly bribing a customs official with Rs.20 lakhs. Some 15 years ago Vohra committee submitted its report to curb criminalization of politics but the fact is that no application in this way is being made. This was mentioned in the petition submitted by the Speaker of Lok Sabha and President of India on 16th may that- “The subject of criminalisation of politics is one that concerns the entire nation closely. It is deeply disturbing that on the one hand, our polity is tolerant of ‘fake encounters’ (summary executions) of alleged criminals and terrorists, while our highest representative body – Indian Parliament – harbours people caught red-handed in acts of human trafficking, and convicted on charges of abduction and suspected murder.”

(2) Supreme Court’s Judgement:-
The Supreme Court judgment of May 2, 2002 mandated that candidates disclose their criminal antecedents, if any, as also their financial and educational background. The Election Commission had proposed amendment of statutory rules and the format of nomination papers, to give effect to this judgment of the Supreme Court. The Apex Court judgement to check corruption among public servant is a welcome step. No law should provide protective shield to the corrupt public official and the court has rightly held that no prior sanction of competent authority would be required to prosecute them. With this order, 93 MPs and 10 ministers in Manmohan Singh's ministry are under the scanner on various criminal charges. This is appalling. It is ironical that the executive and legislatures who make and implement policies and guidelines for the development are themselves acting as stumbling block in the development of the nation. The role of Supreme Court becomes very important here. The Apex Court as custodian of constitution should take all necessary steps to strengthen democracy in the country. The legislature and executive have been complaining about the Supreme Court’s intervention on their domain, but it becomes imperative in such kind of unwanted situation. The Supreme Court of India upheld a PIL which made it mandatory for everyone seeking public office to disclose their criminal, financial and educational history. It was a way to ensure that the voters knew the important details about their “honourable” leaders, and steamed them were indeed.

Some of the parties would be able to draw advantage from the Supreme Court order because they have had less opportunity to indulge in crime and corruption. They would have a greater chance of watching candidates of other parties squirm and suffer in agony. Some others might be happy because they already have efficient watchdog systems and batteries of lawyers in place that would permit them to file counter-affidavits and challenge nominations of opposing candidates within hours of their being filed.

(3) 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 Judgement 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 offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge was framed or cognisance taken by the court of law. If so, requires the details thereof; the assets (immovable, movable, bank balance, etc.) of a candidate and of his/her spouse and that of the dependents; liabilities, if any, particularly of any overdue of any public financial institution or Government dues; educational qualifications of the candidate. The Right to Information Act 2005 is a historical Act that makes Government officials liable for punishment if they fail to respond to people within a stipulated timeframe. Many public servants are leading luxurious lifestyles, beyond the legal sources of their income. Many public servants are filing false affidavits about their annual income, wealth details to Election Commission of India / Vigilance Commission / other authorities, as the case may be. These authorities are not properly verifying these affidavits. Many scams, scandals are coming to light day in & day out, politicians are accusing each other of involvement in scams. Whereas, the said authorities are keeping mum, as if those affidavits filed by tainted public servants are true. The tainted public servants are not even providing full, right information to public as per RTI Act, lest the truth come out.

This seen is very normal now a day that some public servants, caught red-handed during luxurious spending, they easily say that it is at their political party’s expense or their well wisher’s expense. However no entries are found in the account books of said parties to that respect. The law forbids public servants from accepting gifts, hospitality, favours beyond the value of rupees one hundred (Rs. 100 ) , as it may be a form of bribe. But one may ask all these under RTI. Right to Know is an inherent attribute of every person. Right to know differs only in one sense with right to information. Right to know is a natural right and right to information is a provision given by government to its people. Natural rights do not have any value legally until they are legally considered. Hence right to know as such implied in the freedom of speech and expression which is a legally considered right must have to be given a special value. Right to information as such will bring transparency of the government activities and allow the people to find remedies for those things by which they suffered.

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Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: nidhisoni15@legalserviceindia.com

 Added Date:10 Jan 2009
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About the Author: Nidhi Soni
Second Year Student at NLIU Bhopal

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