Criminalising Politics

The Supreme Court in its         September 25, 2018 judgement 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 Indian administration. 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.

But mere disqualification of criminal candidate from contesting election won't suffice unless the political parties make a genuine effort and commitment to decriminalise politics. The Supreme Court judgement referred to the Law Commission report which pointed out that political parties have been chiefly responsible for criminalisation of politics. Though the Representation of People's 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 Supreme Court in its judgement observed that the presence of criminalisation 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".

In truth political parties, right and left alike, these days rely more on muscle power, not mass power to propagate their agenda. They deploy large number of anti-socials to terrorise voters and political opponents. Then mafia money plays havoc in election. Only mass mobilisation can thwart the growing trend of criminalisation of politics. Parliamentary and assembly polls apart even local body elections now experience massive involvement of musclemen, serving on the pay-roll of political parties. In a situation of rampant unemployment and no prospects of gainful employment in future, there is a huge army of unemployed youth, always ready to serve the dirty game of politicians. Democracy has no future unless people are encouraged by way of sustained campaign against criminalisation of politics to get rid of fear-psychosis tainted politicians and their parties create during elections.


Vol. 51, No.30, Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2019