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CRIMINALIZATION OF POLITICS

CRIMINALIZATION OF POLITICS

Why in the news Criminalization of Politics?

Forty percent of sitting MPs have declare criminal cases against them, with 25% of legislators being accuse of serious crimes including murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women, according to a new report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and New Election Watch (NEW) in Criminalization of Politics.

What is the criminalization of politics?

The term “criminalization of politics” describes the encroachment of criminal elements into the political arena, wherein people with criminal associations or backgrounds participate in politics or hold public office. This phenomenon is global in scope and can take on diverse forms and intensities, without geographical limitations.

Causes of criminalization of politics.

Root Causes:

  1. a. Fragile Institutions: In developing nations especially, weak and brittle institutions frequently find it difficult to uphold the law and limit the influence of criminal forces in politics.
  2. Corruption: Pervasive corruption in political systems provides an environment that is ideal for criminal elements to take advantage of and enter the political sphere.
  3. Absence of Political Morality:

People with criminal histories can prosper in political environments due to a decrease in moral standards among politicians and political parties.

Poor Party Structures in Politics:

Inadequate internal screening and candidate selection processes characterize many Indian political organizations. A breach in intraparty democracy could result in the nomination of people with criminal records who can obtain financing or votes.

Election-Related Dynamics

Political parties may be encouraged to run candidates with criminal histories due to the competitive nature of elections and the emphasis on winning at all costs. These candidates’ financial resources or local clout may give the impression that they have a stronger chance of winning.

Financial Strength:

In India, elections typically entail substantial financial outlays, and contenders may turn to illicit methods, such as engaging in criminal activity, to gather funds for their campaigns. This fosters a relationship between politics and money power and allows people with criminal histories to enter the country.

Acceptance of Criminalization of Politics in Society:

Politicians with criminal histories are accepted or normalized by society in some areas. The acceptance of candidates with criminal records may be influenced by elements including ties to the community, networks of patrons, or the conviction that capable leaders can better serve the community’s interests.

Absence of Voter Awareness

Voters’ ignorance of politicians’ criminal histories may have played a role in their election success. Without closely examining a candidate’s criminal record, voters may be influenced by things like caste, community ties, or promises of progress.

Legal Gaps:

Election contestants facing criminal charges may be able to do so due to legal loopholes or delays in the justice system. In spite of grave legal challenges, some politicians take advantage of the lengthy judicial system to advance their careers in politics.

Politics in Dynasties:

The persistence of criminalization may be aided by the dynastic political system that is common in India, where political power is passed down within families. If a criminal has ties to a powerful political family, it can be simpler for them to get into politics.

Corruption:

Law enforcement and the courts are two areas where widespread corruption can help criminal politicians enter and remain in office. People who engage in corrupt activities may be able to avoid legal repercussions or obtain favorable court decisions.

Absence of Party Democracy Within:

Political party leaders may find it simpler to impose candidates without taking into account their criminal history if there is a lack of internal democracy inside the party. The selection of candidates on the basis of criteria other than merit may be influenced by centralized decision-making processes inside parties.

Cases of criminalization of politics in India

Mukhtar Ansari:

Criminal Background: Mukhtar Ansari is a prominent politician from Uttar Pradesh with a significant criminal background. He has faced charges ranging from murder to extortion and has been accused of running a criminal syndicate.

Political Career: Despite his criminal record, Mukhtar Ansari has been elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) multiple times. His political career reflects the ability of individuals with criminal backgrounds to secure electoral victories.

Impact on Governance: The presence of Mukhtar Ansari in politics has raised concerns about the impact on governance, with questions being raised about the influence of individuals with criminal affiliations on policymaking and law enforcement.

Pappu Yadav:

Criminal Allegations: Rajesh Ranjan, popularly known as Pappu Yadav, is a politician from Bihar with a history of criminal allegations, including involvement in cases related to murder and kidnapping.

Political Journey: Pappu Yadav has been elected as an MP multiple times and has been associated with different political parties over the years. His political journey underscores the challenges of preventing individuals with criminal backgrounds from finding a place in mainstream politics.

Electoral Dynamics: Pappu Yadav’s success in electoral politics points to the complex electoral dynamics where candidates with criminal backgrounds may be perceived as formidable contenders.

Amarmani Tripathi:

Convictions and Imprisonment: Amarmani Tripathi, a politician from Uttar Pradesh, has faced serious criminal charges, including murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of poet Madhumita Shukla.

Political Influence: Before his imprisonment, Amarmani Tripathi held significant political influence and served as a minister in the state government. His case highlights the challenges of individuals with criminal convictions holding positions of power.

Impact on Rule of Law: The case of Amarmani Tripathi raised concerns about the potential manipulation of the legal system by politicians with criminal backgrounds and the impact on the rule of law.

Shahabuddin and Siwan:

Criminal Network: The town of Siwan in Bihar was known for the dominance of the criminal-politician nexus, particularly associated with Mohammad Shahabuddin. The region witnessed a criminal network operating with political patronage.

Intimidation and Violence: Shahabuddin’s influence extended to instances of intimidation, violence, and a sense of lawlessness. The criminalization of politics in regions like Siwan has had a direct impact on the safety and security of residents.

Legal Actions: The legal proceedings against Shahabuddin brought attention to the challenges of bringing powerful politicians with criminal backgrounds to justice and the need for legal reforms to expedite such cases

Supreme Court judgments on the criminalization of politics

Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India (2019):

The Supreme Court, in this case, directed political parties to publish details of criminal antecedents of their candidates contesting elections. It emphasized that voters have a right to know about the criminal background of candidates.

The court instructed political parties to upload information about criminal cases against candidates on their official websites, in newspapers, and on social media platforms within 48 hours of the selection of candidates.

Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013):

The Supreme Court held that lawmakers convicted of serious crimes would be immediately disqualified from holding office. The court struck down a provision in the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers to continue in office if their appeal was pending.

The judgment aimed to prevent individuals with criminal convictions from continuing to serve in legislative bodies and signaled a commitment to cleansing politics of criminal elements.

Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India (2002):

In this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court mandated that candidates contesting elections must disclose information about their criminal records, assets, liabilities, and educational qualifications.

The court observed that voters have a fundamental right to know the antecedents of candidates to make informed choices during elections.

Ramesh Dalal v. Union of India (2005):

The Supreme Court directed political parties to submit complete details of candidates with criminal records to the Election Commission. It emphasized that parties should not give tickets to candidates with a criminal background.

The court’s directive aimed at curbing the practice of political parties fielding candidates with serious criminal charges.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India (2003):

The Supreme Court held that criminals should not enter the electoral fray, and Parliament should frame laws to debar individuals facing serious criminal charges from contesting elections.

The court recommended that disqualification should be based on the nature of the offense, and a comprehensive law should be enacted to address the issue.

Measures to mitigate the issue of criminalization of politics.
Tighter Candidate Intake: Establish a stricter screening procedure for political candidates to make that those with significant criminal records are disqualified from running for office. Require candidates to disclose their criminal histories, so providing voters with easy access to this information.

 

Quick-Trigger Courts for Public Officials: Create special fast-track courts to handle issues involving politicians more quickly. This would guarantee prompt and unbiased justice, avoiding protracted courtroom delays.

 

Election-related Reforms: To deter political parties from fielding candidates with criminal records, introduce election reforms. Parties ought to answer for the criminal histories of their nominees. To lessen the impact of certain candidates with criminal histories, take into consideration the implementation of a mixed-member proportional representation system.

 

Politics legislation is being decriminalized. Adopt particular laws with the goal of decriminalizing politics, stipulating severe consequences for political parties discovered to be endorsing politicians who face significant criminal accusations. Introduce legislation that expressly bans people convicted of specific crimes from holding public office.

 

Campaigns for Public Awareness: Start large-scale public awareness initiatives to inform voters about the consequences of endorsing candidates with criminal histories. Encourage civic engagement to provide people the power to decide for themselves and actively engage in the democratic process.

 

Accountability of Political Parties: Hold political parties accountable for the behavior of their members and leaders. Parties who knowingly sponsor candidates with criminal histories ought to face disciplinary action.

 

Technology Use: Make use of technology to improve election transparency. Accessible information on candidates, such as their criminal and legal histories, can be found on online sites. To reduce electoral fraud and manipulation, use electronic voting methods.

 

Independent Supervisory Authorities: establish impartial supervision organizations in charge of election observation and moral code enforcement. These organizations ought to be able to look into complaints and act quickly to stop infractions.

 

Youth Engagement and Education: Include civic education in school curricula to help young people develop a feeling of responsibility and an understanding of the value of moral leadership. Encourage young people to get involved in politics so they can contribute new ideas and lessen the influence of established power structures.

 

Working together with the civil society: Work together with advocacy groups, NGOs, and civil society organizations to develop a unified voice opposing the criminalization of politics. Encourage programs that track and document the behavior of elected officials to promote greater accountability.

 

Whistleblower Safety Measures: Enact robust rules safeguarding whistleblowers from retaliation to incentivize people to come forward with information regarding illegal acts occurring within the political arena.

 

Laws in India to reduce criminalization of politics

Representation of the People Act, 1951:

Section 8: This section of the Act deals with the disqualification of individuals convicted of certain offenses. A person convicted of an offense and sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years is disqualified from being chosen as, or being a Member of Parliament (MP) or the State Legislature.

Section 9: Disqualification on conviction for certain offenses, including corruption and offenses under the Indian Penal Code.

Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961:

Rule 4A: Political parties are required to submit an affidavit containing information about candidates with pending criminal cases, educational qualifications, and assets. This affidavit must be submitted along with the nomination papers.

Supreme Court Judgments:

The Supreme Court, through various judgments, has directed political parties to ensure transparency by disclosing criminal antecedents of their candidates. The Public Interest Foundation case in 2019 mandated parties to publicize details of candidates with criminal records on their official websites and in the media.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005:

Citizens can use the RTI Act to seek information related to criminal records, financial assets, and other details of political candidates. This act promotes transparency and empowers citizens to access information about the backgrounds of candidates.

Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003:

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act aims to address corruption and improve governance. While not directly focused on politics, it contributes to creating an environment of vigilance and accountability.

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988:

This legislation defines offenses related to corruption by public servants. Individuals facing charges under this act may be disqualified from contesting elections, depending on the nature of the charges.

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC):

While not directly related to criminalization, the NJAC aimed to bring transparency to the process of appointing judges. A transparent and accountable judiciary can contribute to addressing issues related to the criminalization of politics.

Election Commission Guidelines:

The Election Commission of India issues guidelines and instructions to political parties on the disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates. Parties are encouraged to refrain from fielding candidates with serious criminal charges

Conclusion of Criminalization of Politics:

In conclusion, a comprehensive and persistent strategy is needed to combat India’s criminalization of politics. Legislative and judicial actions are important, but so are changes in political culture, voter education, and a dedication to moral leadership. India can only hope to establish a political environment that respects democracy, the rule of law, and public trust by working together.

Source: The Wire