Wrong Target – Life ban from polls for convicted netas is a bad idea

Source: The post is based on the article “Wrong Target – Life ban from polls for convicted netas is a bad idea” published in The Times of India on 16th September 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance – Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Relevance: About criminalization of politics

News: An amicus curiae/judicial person appointed by the Supreme Court to help with a case about corruption in politics suggested that politicians convicted of crimes should be banned from running for office for life.

What was the rationale behind such a suggestion?

Currently, convicted politicians are barred from running for office for six years.

The rationale behind this suggestion is that the six-year ban violates constitutional principles, such as the right to equality, especially when civil servants in comparable situations face dismissal.

This raises the question of whether politicians are given preferential treatment.

What has been the previous stand of the Supreme Court regarding the conviction of the politician?

Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act prevents the criminalization of politics by specifying disqualification criteria.

In the past, the Supreme Court has interpreted this law in a way that politicians must tell voters about any criminal cases they are facing, but the Court has avoided making any major changes to the law.

However, in 2013, the Court struck down a provision that allowed convicted politicians to appeal their convictions before being disqualified.

This means that politicians are now disqualified from running for office immediately after they are convicted of a crime, as seen in the case of Rahul Gandhi.

Must Read: Disqualification of Legislators in India – Explained

What can be the way ahead?

An analysis of affidavits filed by current members of Parliament found that 40% of them have outstanding criminal cases.

This suggests that simply making the Representation of the People Act stricter will not solve the problem of criminalisation in politics, given the flaws present in the Indian criminal justice system.

Further, increasing punishments for politicians convicted of crimes will only give the government more reasons to exploit the system to target its opponents. Therefore, there is no good reason to amend the existing law by citing equality concerns. 

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