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Criminal Politics Nexus: Recent Cases

The nexus of crime and politics has a deep rooted history in India, although it has caught public attention in the recent years. The N.N Vohra committee set up to explore crime and politics relationship had recorded the rise of criminals with the active support of the politicians and the bureaucrats.

The committee had eroded the rule of law and the legitimacy of democratic governance. The report was never tabled in the parliament and has been kept secret by the ministry of home affairs. There have been many reports that have been documented by the scholars on the phenomenal rise of criminal politicians in India.

A noteworthy recent work, ‘When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics’ states the contradiction of free and fair election with uncontrolled criminality, why political parties embrace criminal candidates and how average voters pays no heed about the candidates criminal antecedents while exercising their vote.[1] According to the author, the weakening of the national congress and the rise of the marginalized created the space for crime and politics. The key drivers are the collapse of election finance regime and weal enforcement of the rule of law in the country.

There is an evidence to support the aforesaid statement. A deep analysis of the affidavits of the candidates shows an augmentation of the criminals having serious criminal charges and such candidates winning the elections. The February 2020 judgement notes that the 2004 Lok Sabha election, 24% of the members of parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of the MPs had criminal cases pending against them. [2]

What is notable is that most of these elected members with criminal records are extremely wealthier candidates. For example, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 16 out of 23 winners who had criminal charges registered related to murder are multi millionaires. The most interesting fact is that the 20214 general elections re-elected 165 MPs who had an average asset growth of RS 7.5 Crores in 5 years (2009-2014). Thus the nexus of crime and politics is major ills and evils that is eating into the Indian democracy.

Limitations of role of judiciary:

The courts alone cannot curb the nexus between crime and politics.You cannot clap with one hand.The parliament has to step ahead to make law on the criminals contesting elections. On 25 September 2018, the supreme court of India delivered a major judgement directing the election commission of India to take immediate measures to curb criminals in the politics.

A five judge bench headed by the then chief justice Dipak Mishra stated that the voters should be well informed about the antecedents of the candidates contesting elections. The court said that it is not for the courts but the legislature to bring about changes in the law. The court urged the parliament to make laws against candidates charged with heinous crimes and deny tickets to those criminals. The highlights of this important judgement were the directives given to the election commission of India.

These were:
  1. A candidate must fill in the prescribed form.
  2. The candidate must fill in bold letters that he is implicated in some crime.
  3. The candidate must inform his party that he is implicated in some crime.
  4. On receiving such information from the candidates of his criminal antecedents, the party must put this information on its websites.
  5. The criminal antecedents should be published by the candidate and his party in newspaper which are widely circulated in the locality .[3] In its judgement the Supreme Court explicitly raises its concern over the augmentation of criminalization of politics.

Restriction in the intervention of judiciary:

All major initiatives against the criminal politics nexus have originated through civil society activism with the silent support of the judiciary. In 2002 Supreme Court directed for a compulsory disclosure of candidates financial, educational and criminal background while contesting the elections. The verdict did not yield any positive outcome as is evident from the rising graph of the criminal politicians in last three lok sabha election. As soon as the court passed the verdict, it was bitterly opposed by most political parties and the union government brought an ordinance to nullify the judgement. But the court exercised its power and declared the ordinance as unconstitutional.

Analysis of recent cases:
We will be astonished to know that the 2019 Lok Sabha election have the highest number of politicians who have criminal background. Almost 50% of the member of parliament have criminal charges against them whom we have elected our representatives. How would these people strengthen the democracy of our country? If we take an example of Vikas Dubey, he must have had some political backing. Otherwise nobody would have had dared to do any criminal activity without any kind of support from the bureaucrats or the politicians. It is matter of two days to arrest him and put him behind the bars.

He should have been arrested immediately in 2001 murder case in which he killed an MLA named Santosh Shukla from BJP. There were twenty five policemen who were the witnesses but none of them reported anything against him. As a result, he grew more violent with enormous political support. We can clearly see the increased criminalization in the politics.

But now the time has come to stand against it. It is none other than we who can stop this practice. When we talk of power, we have legislative, executive and judiciary. The best part is that judiciary is independent otherwise there would been no stand for democracy in our country. Though there has been many judgements which adjudicates for candidates free from any kind of criminal background but we can still find criminal candidates contesting elections. We can see an evidence of this in the recent Bihar election.

It has been strictly stated in the case of Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora and Others that if any candidate is contesting an election, then the political party has to give all information on their website pertaining to the candidate (for example pending cases against him of murder, rape, and the court where the trial is conducted, case number etc.) Not only that the political party has to also explain the reason for providing ticket for contesting the election and why any other individual without criminal antecedents could not be selected.[4]

Conclusion:
There are several reasons as to why these candidates are offered tickets. Some of the causes that contribute to winning of these candidates are that they have a depiction of Robin Hood in their region so people vote for out of fear. Some candidates bribe the people by offering them liquor, money etc. the major reason that lead to the victory of these candidates is that most of the population does not vote. Voting plays a vital role in winning and losing a candidate. If are 50 candidates in aggregate in the voters list and out of those 30 people does vote any candidate but they want a change in the society. Then the rest 20 people will definitely make a particular candidate win if they are their supporters.

The thought of not voting into an election leads to the victory of a wrong candidate. I do not understand why most of the people do not vote in an election though the voting is done through secret ballot. In the just concluded Bihar election, the voting percentage recorded was 57.05 per cent. Although this is slightly higher than the polling percentage of 56.6 per cent in 2015 when mahagathbandhan came into existence with JDU and RJD joining hands but lower than the polling percentage of 57.3 per cent recorded in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bihar. Bihar is a state which ranks lowest in the general vulnerability index for the way it treats its women.

It is also a state which has an adverse sex ratio in its population with 918 women for every 1000 men in 2011 census. Yet women have outshined men while participating in the elections. In 2020 Bihar elections, the voting percentage among women was 59.7 per cent. Comparing with the men’s participations in the elections, men's stood at 54.6 per cent. Although it is a good sign that women are participating in the general elections but the decreasing number of male voters is great concern which is not a good for Indian democracy.[5] Thus, voting without being influenced plays a vital role determining a healthy democracy.

End-Notes:
  1. Vaishnav Milan, When Crime Pays Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (HarperCollins, 2017)
  2. Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora and Others, (2020) 3 SCC 734
  3. Public Interest Foundation v. Union Of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224, 225
  4. Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora and Others, (2020) 3 SCC 73
  5. available at https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/bihar-assembly-polls-2020

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