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Criminalization of Indian Politics

You can get much further with kind word and a gun then with kind words alone. This quote suits best in the Indian political scenario. Every political party, whether National or Regional, have associations with criminals, so it wouldn’t be wrong to say that criminals have utilized the opportunity to shape their future by getting into politics.

Our first president Dr Rajendra Prasad said that “If the people who are elected are capable and men of character and integrity, then they would be able to make the best of even of a defective constitution. If they are lacking in these, the constitution cannot help the country. After all, 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…It requires men of strong character, men of vision, men who will not sacrifice the interests of the country at large for the sake of smaller groups and areas…We can only hope that the country will throw up such men in abundance”[1]. If our representatives that we choose and send them to make laws for ourselves are criminals themselves then how can we except the nation to grow, all this will lead to rise in crime, Mafia controlling our resources and corruption at every tier of government.

Our constitution does not specify as to what disqualifies a person from contesting election for the Parliament, Legislative assembly or any other legislature, the Representation of Peoples act which mentions the criteria for disqualifying a person for contesting an election of legislature. Section 8 of the act, i.e. Disqualification on conviction for certain offences, according to which individual punished with a jail term of more than two years cannot stand in an election for six years after the jail term has ended. The law does not bar individuals who have criminal cases pending against them from contesting elections therefore the disqualification of candidates with criminal cases depends on their conviction in these cases. With cases dragging in courts for years, a disqualification based on conviction becomes ineffective due to low conviction rate.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in their report from 2014 gave concrete numbers to this effect. According to their report, 30% of sitting MPs and MLAs were facing some form of criminal proceedings, and only 0.5% were convicted of criminal charges in a court of law.

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. In 2013, the apex court in the case Lily Thomas vs. Union of India[2] 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, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction,[2] was declared unconstitutional by the bench of Justice A. K. Patnaik and Justice S. J. Mukhopadhaya.

Every political party now a day’s need criminals and mafia’s to work for their party so that these guys can distribute liquor, money, food and other things in return for votes during the implementation of code of conduct, or to rig election voting, collecting political funds for parties and many other things. Every politician and big leader has either faced criminal charges or has been to jail, including many ministers of the union and state both. In fact many chief ministers of various states are accused of a criminal case and some of them have been found guilty.

Every Prime Minister of India starting from the first to the present was either accused of a criminal case or was sent to jail once in their lifetime, but all of them claim that the cases against them are results of political witch hunt and they are political victims.

Some of the legal remedies to curb the spread of criminals in politics to disqualify candidates who are charged with criminal offences which have a maximum punishment of five years or more, and also the charges filed up to one year before the date of scrutiny of nominations would not lead to a disqualification. This safeguard would then minimize politically motivated cases from being filed against an individual before an upcoming election. Where a sitting MLA or MP is accused then the trial must be conducted on day to day basis and try to complete it within a year.

The biggest problem is that voters don’t mind electing candidates facing criminal cases. Voter behavior then emboldens political parties to give tickets to such candidates who can win an election on their ticket. At the end I guess it is the common man again who is to be blamed for his innocence and helplessness.

End-Notes
[1] Constituent assembly debates.
[2] (2000) 6 SCC 224

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