Frame law to decriminalize Indian politics

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The Supreme Court on 25th September 2018 directed political parties and candidates to publish criminal cases of candidates online and give “wide publicity” in the form of a declaration in newspaper and electronic media.

The court has put the onus on parliament to frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes, such as rape, murder and kidnapping; and refuse ticket to offenders in both parliamentary and assembly polls.

As of today, the law disqualifies the person from contesting election if he is convicted of certain offences. However, the person who is charged of criminal offence may still continue to contest election and hold constitutional positions. Unfortunately, it takes ages to get a criminal convicted in Indian judicial system and consequently such guilty politicians continue to play an important public role in the Indian administration. Therefore, considering the existing circumstances, it is the need of an hour to bring in a law that makes sure that either the politicians charged with criminal offences of heinous nature are outrightly barred from contesting elections or their case is fast-tracked to ensure that the minimal damage to the administration and people.

However, mere disqualification of criminal candidate from contesting election won’t suffice unless the political parties make a genuine effort and commitment to decriminalize the politics. The Supreme Court observed that the decriminalization of politics begins with purifying the political parties itself. The judgment referred to the Law Commission report which pointed out that political parties have been chiefly responsible for criminalization of politics. Though the Representation of People Act disqualifies a sitting legislator or a candidate on grounds of conviction in certain offences, there is nothing regulating the appointments to offices within the party. The convicted politician may continue to hold high position within the party and thus also play an important influence in the administration of Government. Thus, even though, there is a law to bar the convict politician to hold constitutional position, this law is not followed in spirit by the political parties who continue to get influenced by the same convict politician.

The criminalization of politics in India does affect every single citizen of India directly and massively. The Supreme Court in its judgment observed that the presence of criminalization of politics was felt in its strongest form during the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. This terror attack was the result of a diffused network of criminal gangs, police and customs officials and their political patrons. The court also referred to the report of the N.N. Vohra Committee which had concluded that the agencies including the CBI, IB, RAW had unanimously expressed their opinion that the criminal network was virtually running “parallel government”.

This petition is directed to the “leaders of political parties” who are “representatives of people” to keep the political interests aside and keep the public interest at primary importance by faithfully making an effort to decriminalize the politics in India. It is apparent that this issue directly affects the structure and important persons in the political parties that form the government, allies or oppositions. However, in view of the rapid change in the general public awareness due to media and social media, more transparent and responsible candidates and parties are more likely to be elected. Therefore, it is in the mutual benefit of all the political parties and general public that the political spectrum is decriminalized.