Criminality in the Indian political system


    In Context 

    Criminality in politics is an issue that has long been debated in many forums.

    About  Criminalization of Politics 

    • It means the participation of criminals in politics. This means that persons with criminal backgrounds contest in the election and get selected as a member of parliament or state legislature

    Major Reasons 

    • Criminalization of political parties is a result of the connection between criminals and politicians and vote-bank politics
    • Lack of enforcement of laws and judgments
    • lack of ethics, and values, and loopholes in the function of the election commission. 
    • It is also linked to political control of state machinery, corruption
    • The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system. 

    Issues /Concerns 

    • The rising number of elected representatives with criminal backgrounds in Parliament and state legislatures is a matter of deep concern to all law-abiding and right-minded citizens.
    •  The increasing trend is dangerous and has steadily been eating into the vitals of democratic polity along with growing corruption of a humongous nature. 
    • Good governance gets seriously undermined when, for instance, criminals, gangsters, or mafia dons, become the political bosses of bureaucrats and subvert the system to serve their interests. 
    • In such a scenario, the bureaucratic system ceases to resist corruption and often embraces it to carry out the diktats of criminal political bosses and also to suit its own ends.
    • As a result, the three main pillars of our democracy, namely, Parliament, judiciary and executive, get progressively weakened, and the fundamental concept of a democratic system gets subverted.

    Various Initiatives were taken in this context 

    • Over the years, there have been some attempts at decriminalising politics and alarm calls raised with regard to the imperative need for reform. 
    • The Vohra Committee set up by the Centre in 1993 sounded a note of warning saying that “some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed senas and, over the years, get themselves elected to local bodies, state assemblies, and the national Parliament.” 
    •  In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that every candidate contesting election has to declare his criminal and financial records along with educational qualifications.
      •  It must be said that mandatory declaration of assets and existing criminal charges in self-sworn affidavits to the EC, prior to elections, has brought in some degree of transparency.
    • In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that a sitting MP or MLA will be disqualified from contesting the election if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more by a court of law.
    •  In 2014, the apex court accepted the Law Commission recommendations and passed an order directing that trials against sitting MPs and MLAs should be concluded within a year of charges being framed and conducted on a day-to-day basis.
    • As a follow-up to these directives, in 2017, the Union government started a scheme to establish 12 special courts for a year to fast-track the trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs. 
    • The apex court in 2021 directed the political parties to upload on their websites and social media platforms the details of pending criminal cases against their candidates and the reasons for selecting them as also for not giving tickets to those without criminal antecedents.

    Suggestions and Way Ahead 

    • Timely corrective measures need to be put in place without any further delay, for the common man to have faith in the fairness of the system. 
    • A time-bound justice delivery system, firmer steps by the Election Commission of India (EC), and a proper strengthening of relevant laws can cleanse the body politic of this evil.
    • Fast-tracking trials and expediting the judicial process through a time-bound justice delivery system can cleanse our public life and rid it of this widespread disease. 
    • Checking the nexus between crime, money, and muscle power will be among the first few steps required to be taken. 
    • The growing dependence of political parties on criminals for muscle power and “electability” must be stopped. Parliament, judiciary, and executive will have to find common ground to put firm mechanisms in place to deal with the increased criminalisation of politics.
    • It is high time all political parties came together and developed a consensus on keeping criminals — some with serious charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, grave corruption, and crimes against women — out of the system.
    • Voters also need to be vigilant about the misuse of money, gifts, and other inducements during election

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q]  High levels of criminality in politics could wreck India’s democracy and imperil subjective well-being. Comment