- SC 2018 ruling
- SC 2020 ruling
- Need for the move
- Way Forward
Criminalisation of Politics in India
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A February 2020 Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politics may have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy. It will first be implemented in the coming Bihar elections in October 2020. The Court has asked the political parties to state the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.
- The 2018 judgment of the bench had made it mandatory for political parties to declare and publish all criminal cases pending against their candidates.
- The 2018 orders stated that:
- each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;
- each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her;
- the party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates.
- A petition in SC claimed Election Commission of India had failed to take any steps to ensure the implementation of a 2018 judgment of the bench.
- The petitioners argued that parties were circumventing the judgment by publishing the details of their candidates’ criminal background in obscure and limited circulation newspapers and making the webpages on their websites difficult to access.
SC 2020 ruling:
- It shall be mandatory for political parties during central and state elections to put out detailed information about candidates with criminal cases pending against them, including the nature of the offences.
- Parties must also list the reasons for selecting such candidates and state why others without criminal antecedents were not selected.
- The information should be published in one local vernacular newspaper, a national newspaper, and on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter.
- These details are to be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate.
- If a political party fails to comply, it would be the contempt of the Court’s orders/directions.
Need for the move:
- There has been an alarming increase in the number of candidates with criminal records entering politics.
- In 2004, 24% of members of Parliament (MPs) 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 MPs had criminal cases pending against them.
- People around the country are unhappy with the quality of governance.
- Given limited choices, they vote as best as they can.
- But no matter how many parties are changed, governance does not really improve.
- Using money power to buy MLAs and MPs sometimes makes a mockery of election outcomes.
- Meanwhile, electoral bonds bring secrecy back into political funding.
- Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, the reason is lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
- It is also not clear what penalty would be imposed if the recent orders are not followed.
- As politics dominates the bureaucracy, and reins in business, civil society and the media, we need governance that is free of the criminal virus.
- Mere capability is not sufficient but the intent to do public service is also required.
- There is a need to be more vigilant both at the institutional as well as individual level.
- This includes monitoring the affidavits of candidates, working with the Election Commission to ensure that information is promptly available on their websites, and widely circulating this information to voters using all the social media tools available.
- It also includes monitoring compliance with the Supreme Court judgment to see if details of tainted candidates are promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles, along with proper reasons for giving them ticket.
- Voters also need to be vigilant about misuse of money, gifts and other inducements during elections.
The political party and its leadership would for the first time have to publicly own up to criminalisation of politics that they had been denying all these years. Though we may not see dramatic changes in the quality of candidates. Campaigns may continue to be more and more personal and even abusive. But all these steps are required, however insignificant they may seem to break down the solid wall of corruption and for decriminalisation of Politics in India.