7 PM Editorial |Combating Criminalization of Politics| 14th July 2020

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Combating Criminalization of Politics

What happened:

The Supreme court in its recent judgment has declared that criminalization of politics must be combated at the political party level. In pursuance of the same, it has provided 6 mandatory directions to political parties to end criminalization of politics.

These orders are vital in the context of rising criminalization in Indian political system.

Increasing criminalization: Causes and effects:

Number of legislators in parliament having criminal cases pending against them has risen since 2004.

  • 24% in 2004
  • 30% in 2009
  • 34% in 2014
  • 43% in 2019

Effects of such criminalization is felt in all walks of life:

  • Loss of public trust in democratic process and politics
  • Bad governance which is reflected in public services like public education, public health.
  • Bureaucracy, business, civil society, media need governance free of criminalization for fulfilling their roles
  • Political corruption
    • Use of money power in horse trading of MLA’s, MP’s
    • Scams like 2g scam, coal scam
    • Cash for query scam
    • Crony capitalism
  • Nexus of politicians – criminals – bureaucrats. Vikas dubey case in Uttar pradesh has revealed such an unholy nexus

Root cause of this malice lies with flawed rationale of political parties in deciding candidates.

  • Winnability in elections based on money and muscle power is determinant for fielding candidates.
  • Capability in administration is seen as sole criteria without considering intent for public service. This is flawed as British were also capable but they were exploitative.
  • Power is seen as an end rather than means for public service. Hence political parties compromising values to win with any means including fielding criminal candidates

In such a context, 6 orders of the supreme court to political parties becomes important

6 orders of supreme court in February 2020:
  • Political parties must upload on their respective websites and print as well as electronic media, detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases, who have been selected as candidates.
  • They also have to mention reasons for such selection over people with clean background
  • The reasons as to selection of candidates shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls
  • These details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations.
  • The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.
  • Non-compliance of these directions shall be brought to notice of SC by Election Commission on the grounds of Contempt of Court

These 6 orders are in addition to directives provided by supreme court in its earlier judgments:

  • Introduction of additional affidavitin 2002 with details of finances and criminal cases
  • Each candidate must inform political parties of criminal cases against him or her. Pirates shall put these details in public(newspapers, social media)
  • Lily Thomas judgment of 2014had struck down section 8(4) of representation of people’s act, 1951. This has resulted in immediate disqualification of a sitting legislator in case of conviction in criminal cases.
Going ahead:

Rising trend in criminalization shows that earlier judgments of the supreme court were not effective. Lack of enforcement of court judgments is the reason for this. Even in the recent judgment, there is no clarity on what punishments will be there for non compliance. Only by strict enforcement can a deterrent be created.

Greater vigilance during the upcoming elections is needed for strict enforcement:.

  • Election commission(EC) must monitor compliance with 6 directives and additional affidavit
  • EC must ensure that information is disseminated promptly on all media
  • Prosecuting for non compliance will ensure deterrence
  • Citizens must be made aware that politicians who bribe for votes cannot be trusted in governance

In addition, legislative changes must be done to prohibit people with serious criminal charges to contest in elections.

Only by these sustained efforts can the political system be rid of the menace of criminalization.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com

Mains Question:
  1. Criminalization has only increased in India in the last 2 decades. What role does political parties play in this trend? Discuss the role of the judiciary in addressing this menace? [15 marks, 250 words]
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