Curbing Criminalisation of Politics in India


Democracy as an essential feature of the Constitution is unassailable and free and fair elections lie at the core of the democratic polity. While a free election is where all citizens can vote for candidates of their own choice with a free mind and without any threat or pressure, a fair election is one in which all votes have equal power and are counted equally but in addition to the above, a fair election encapsulates much more other than recognizing the principle of one man, one vote, and one value. If you ask ten people as to what free and fair election is, there will be ten different responses but amongst all, people insist on ‘clean candidates’ for the elections to be effective. It is one of the most disturbing features of India’s electoral democracy that the candidates with a tainted and tarnished image are unscrupulously fielded by the political parties who indeed have no reservations but to directly or indirectly indulge in criminality to gain success at an election. Resultantly, we fail to have good leaders to keep the country abreast with the other progressing States. Today, India might vaingloriously claim to be the world’s largest serving democracy but it can sadly not hold up to claim to be the greatest democracy of ideal representatives.

The Criminalisation of Politics is a much wider term that is commonly used to refer to various practices that primarily relate to or emanates from the nexus between politicians and criminals which includes political subjugation of police authorities, brazen corruption, and lack of ethics amongst candidates and their political parties, etc. There may be various forms of Criminalisation of Politics, the one that is more alarming and growing tremendously is the indulgence of criminals in politics with a sole intent to use the political powers for personal gains or to the advantage of their proximate sans public welfare.

Multiple factors contribute to the Criminalisation of Politics. The first and the foremost reason continues to be the weak laws that are allowed to linger by those in power as it is in their own interest. Some of the reasons for the Criminalisation of Politics are as follows:
a. Lack of Political Will: Whatever reforms we have witnessed are by virtue of the rulings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court from time to time and efforts of the Election Commission of India. It is apparent that neither the Political Parties nor their members are willing to pay heed to the worsening circumstances.

b. Vote Bank: The ulterior objective of the political parties is to secure seats in the election for which it requires a vote bank that one can rely upon. Since the network of criminals is well spread it becomes easy to secure votes to achieve winnability in the polls.

c. The narrow interest of voters: Unlike other countries in the world, a large number of people consider voting in elections as mere duty and often tend to vote through a narrow prism of interests viz. caste, community, etc. disregarding other factors in totality. The low voter turnout continues to be the main problem that affects the result of the elections tending to be in favor of those who better deserves a place behind the bars instead of the sanctum of the Parliament.

Chapter IX-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with offences relating to elections. The Chapter contains as many as 09 Sections which broadly deal with offences including but not limited to taking a bribe, exercising undue influence at elections, personation at the election, false statement & illegal payments in connection with an election, etc. On a bare perusal of the provisions contained in the Chapter IX-A of the IPC, 1860, one could easily conclude that the Code does not altogether deal with the entry or barrier over the entry of a person with criminal antecedents into politics.

The decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Union of India (UOI) and Ors. vs. Association for Democratic Reforms and Ors3 not only emphasized the need for purity of elections and healthy democracy but also paved the way for introducing reformatory measures in the electoral system by issuing directions to the Election Commission to secure information on an affidavit from a candidate seeking election to the State Legislative Assembly or Parliament about following aspects of his candidature:
a. Whether the candidate has been convicted/acquitted/discharged in past in relation to any criminal offence – if any, whether he is punished with imprisonment or fine?
b. Details of pending cases initiated prior to six months of the filing of nomination of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more and which charges have been framed or cognizance has been taken by the court of law.

The constitution of the Vohra Committee finds its genesis in the Chief Ministers’ conference convened in the year 1992 on the theme of “Administration of Criminal Justice in India”. The attendees of the conference deliberated upon several issues touching upon criminal justice and also expressed their grave concern over the increasing criminalisation of politics as well as the politicisation of administrative affairs. It was ultimately this conference that led to the formation of a Committee under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, for follow up action.
The Government of India Former Union Home Secretary NN Vohra headed the Committee with an object to identify the degree of political-criminal nexus. The report which was submitted in October 1993 recorded several observations by official agencies on the network of criminals who were virtually running a parallel government. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the year 1997 recommended the appointment of a high-level committee to ensure the in-depth investigation into the findings of the Committee8, however, the recommendation has been conveniently swept under the rug over time.

The major consequence of the growing Criminalisation of Politics is that the law-breakers get elected as law-makers thus, making the legislature more incompetent to enact apt laws. This is the primary reason as to why every second law enacted by the Parliament is challenged in a trice before the Hon’ble Apex Court on the anvils of constitutionality. Further, the entry of criminals into politics weakens the law and order in the society resulting in an exponential increase in the rate of crime such as circulation of unaccounted money, diluting probity in public life, to cite a few.

The Politics in India is not about social service anymore instead it has emerged as a lucrative profession or business. Understanding the magnitude of the issue that has deepened its roots in the Indian polity, one cannot expect to bring overnight reforms in the electoral politics in terms of ideal representatives. The same MLAs and MPs with criminal antecedents contesting the elections again would be nothing but pouring old wine in new bottles. It is high time that the Political Parties must introspect and strive to clean their own houses so that fairness in the elections can be achieved in its truest sense. It is also necessary for media houses to play a pro-active role in disseminating information and making more and more people aware of the background of their candidates so as to enable them to make a wiser choice for a better tomorrow. The testing times call for every segment of the Indian society to stand up manfully and fight every adverse influence, political or executive instead of leaving the future of the country in the hands of the criminals

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