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Criminalization of Politics

Topics Covered: RPA related issues.

Criminalization of Politics

Context:

A February 2020 Supreme Court judgement 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.

What was the case all about?

The judgment was passed in a contempt of court case filed against the Chief Election Commissioner of India.

The petition claimed the ECI had failed to take any steps to ensure the implementation of a 2018 judgment of the bench, which had made it mandatory for political parties to declare and publish all criminal cases pending against their candidates.

  • The petitioners argued that parties were “circumventing” the 2018 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”.

cause_of_concern

The judgment:

The court had asked the particle parties to state “The reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.”

  • If a political party fails to comply, it would be in contempt of this court’s orders/

Directions issued by the Court:

  1. It is mandatory for all political parties to publish all details regarding pending criminal cases against their chosen candidates, not only in local newspapers, but also on party websites and social media handles.
  2. Along with the details of pending cases, the parties will also have to publish “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates”.
  3. The “reasons” given for selection of the candidates have to be “with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere ‘winnability’ at the polls”.

What does the RPA say on this?

Currently, under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, lawmakers cannot contest elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections.

Main reasons for Criminalization:

  1. Corruption
  2. Vote bank.
  3. Lack of governance.

What is the way out?

  1. Political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
  2. The RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
  3. Fast-track courtsshould decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.
  4. Bring greater transparency in campaign financing.
  5. The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties.

Need for reforms:

In 2004, 24% of the members of Parliament had criminal cases against them.

  • In 2009, that went up to 30%.
  • In 2014, it went up to 34%.
  • In 2019, as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Section 8 of the RP Act.
  2. SC guidelines.
  3. ECI- composition and functions.
  4. CEC- appointment.
  5. Powers of Election Commission on matters related to election of candidates.

Mains Link:

Discuss the concerns associated criminalisation of politics and what the Supreme Court done to address these concerns?

Sources: the Hindu.