Crime and Politics: Political Candidates with Criminal Background - Editorial

Crime and Politics in India: Background Context 

The Apex Court has taken a bold decision by agreeing to listen to a valuable consent and plea from the Election Commission of India (ECI) to administer political parties in India to not field candidates with criminal records in past.

Crime and Politics: Political Candidates with Political Background

The immediate notable goading came after the ECI finding that almost more than 46% of MPs have past criminal records with serious offences.

While the number might sound swollen as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences, mostly considered to be political offences “unlawful assembly” and “defamation cases”, the real concern here is that the current squadron of Lok Sabha Member of Parliament has the Highest (29%) portion of those criminal MPs with detailed criminal offences compared to its recent predecessors.

One Third if Lok Sabha MP’s have criminal cases pending 

  • Approximately 30% of the Lok Sabha MPS of the Indian parliament have registered criminal offenses against them. 
  • This report was compiled by National Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reform (ADR) based on the affirmation filed by political candidates during election since year 2004. 
  • According to the assessment, it was found that any political candidates with a clean slate without any criminal record has least possible chances of getting elected (approximately 12%). On the other hand, the candidates with a criminal background or series of criminal offences against them have better changes of getting successfully elected (approximately 23%). 
  • The report established that, around 162 (30%) of the total 543 existing MPs of lower house (Lok Sabha) have “criminal offence cases” registered against them and 76 (14%) have “serious criminal offence cases” registered against them. 
  • Around 40 (17%) of the 232 MPs of the Rajya House (upper house) have “criminal offence case” registered against them and 16 others (7%) have “serious criminal offence cases” registered against them. 
  • A stand alone and independent agencies, assessed 62,847 candidates and were sheltered by at least one political party and they stood for elections since 2004, and around 4,181 stood in an election for more than once and more than one election. 
  • Out of these 4,181 candidates who contested more than one election, 1,072 had a criminal offence the first time they stood for election and around 788 had criminal offences the second time they stood for election. 
  • This boils down to the fact that political party favour, give tickets and field candidates (74% candidates) with criminal background and registered criminal records second time, in spite of knowledge of the criminal background and cases.  
  • India’s Apex Court, ruled earlier and mentioned it very clearly that those MPs elected and in serving into the office would be disqualified immediately, if found being convicted of the criminal offence. However, this situation was different earlier, convicted MPs and ministers were allowed to serve the office while their appeals being in court for hearing.  

Crime and Politics: Political Candidates with Political Background

Supreme Court Ruling with the context to Criminal Records in Politics 

The Apex court has put forward the series of critical judgement on addressing these issues

  • Apex Court discarded and eliminated the Legal protection of convicted MPs from immediate disqualification in 2013, and in 2014, commanded the finalization of trials involving elected Member of Parliament within 12 months (a year) of time period. 
  • In 2017, Apex Court directed the Centre to device a scheme to establish special courts to exclusively try cases against politicians on fast track, and directed political parties to report and announce pending criminal offence cases faced by their potential candidates in year 2018. 
  • But these moves were not to discourage the elected MPs with the doubtful credentials. 
  • Possibly what would do the trick is a rule that refuse candidates against whom charges have been framed in court for serious criminal offences, but this is something for Indian Parliament to consider as an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951. 
  • This culmination or curtailment, however, is still a day dream, given the composition of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) with a notable number of political representatives (Members of Parliament) facing serious criminal offences and cases. 
  • Lastly this is the outcome of the structural issue in Indian democracy and the situation of the Indian states. 

Prism view by Voters: 

Political researchers and analyst have found that many candidates with a series of criminal offences registered against them still manage to get elected in parliamentary and assembly election despite them not welcomed by voters, largely due to their ability to influence voters through monetary offerings and finance their own election and bring resources to their respective political party.

Such candidates are being viewed through a narrow prism: Geared to represent their interest by any means (Good or Bad).

With a given number of choices, voters don’t have much choice as the opposite candidates contesting election against these convicts also have similar background.

Either way this ill structured political structure showcases the long ailment that being stuck to Indian democratic system and reflect the scenario of Indian state institution and establishment and quality of MP’s being elected.

Clean the Slate of Political parties: Need of the hour 

Judgement and assessment strongly advocate the parliament to introduce the “Powerful Law” to clean the slate of all the political parties, MPs facing trial for series of serious criminal offences.

The Five-Judge Bench ruled guided and administered by then Chief Justice of India, concluded that immediate illegalization or prohibition of politics cannot be apprehend by merely disallowing the MPs, instead should come by “Cleansing the political parties”.

Respected Apex Court had proposed the Indian Parliament to frame the “Concrete Law” that prohibits the makes it compulsory for political parties to stop entertaining the leaders with serious criminal charges, and turn down their open of getting the election ticket in both the houses. The nation is waiting for such massive reforms since ages.

It also provided the directions and instructions, inclusive of political parties and candidates should announce the criminal background of the later in widely-circulated national newspaper.

Conclusion  

Electoral reforms and amendments are the regular initiative to address the gaps and strengthen the electoral processes. This is important because of the situation of politics in India. These reforms help Indian maintain the shape of being the world's largest democratic republic, not just to showcase but as mentioned in the preamble and constitution of India.

Reforms alone won’t work until increased awareness, education and democratic participation and the right groundwork is created to lawful legitimization of politics. 

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