Decriminalizing Indian Politics
Updated: Jun 22
As a student of Political Science, I have always dreamt of an Indian political milieu free from any records of crime and criminals. Is it possible for the world’s largest democracy to make this real? Is it necessary for the country to decriminalize national politics? What is the reason for this unpretending upsurge in criminals being involved in active politics? Why didn’t the preceding governments and the existing governments take up the necessary actions to decriminalize the prestige of national politics? Since independence, the involvement of people with criminal records has risen significantly, and today it has become a major roadblock to effective politics. Being the world’s largest democracy, whose political ideologies and election systems are famous all over the world, it is of utmost importance to decriminalize Indian politics.
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A Great Upsurge
Comparison of the 1951 general elections and 2019 general elections shows a stark increase in candidates with registered criminal cases. Such a criminalization of Indian politics has become an ever tiding headache for Indian democracy. It is a harsh reality of our time that a great percentage of the people that we elect are perpetrators of heinous crimes. Our ancestors who fought for our freedom had envisioned a corruption free nation, but unfortunately the nation itself is now being ruled by culprits facing several pending criminal cases against them. This criminalization of Indian politics is a result of the collaboration between criminals and politicians because of which corrupt people have become our leaders and heroes.
The candidates who participate in the elections want to register many criminal cases against themselves as it is believed that their popularity will increase with more number of criminal cases being registered against them.Locally emerging leaders who have many pending criminal cases registered against them have gained more popularity than the other participating candidates and the winning chance for these candidates is increasingly high. This is significant in understanding why political parties choose candidates with criminal cases rather than someone who has a clean sheet. Thus, the probability for a political party to come to power with such candidates is relatively high when compared to others.
India valiantly claims herself as the world’s largest democracy but it fails to uphold a similar claim as the world’s greatest democracy with ideal representatives. Indian politics is experiencing a huge upsurge of culprits with heinous criminal charges like rape, murder and kidnapping, entering into the decision making process which is fundamental to uphold the democracy and its faith. But, today such behaviour is often glorified and encouraged by the political parties and the people alike.The analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an organization that works in electoral and political reforms shows that in the past 15 years there has been a steady increase in the share of MPs with criminal cases. The affidavits of some candidates belonging to recognized national parties show as many as 250 criminal cases registered against each before the 2019 general elections.
As per the analysis of ADR, since 2004 the criminal cases against MPs, MLAs have gradually increased. In 2004, ADR analyzed affidavits filed by 514 MPs of which 125 or 23.4% had criminal cases against them. The next general elections in 2009 saw a 6% jump in the percentage value. Election after election, the proportion of MPs with criminal charges have increased and by the 2019 general elections, the proportion of these elected candidates has hit nearly half of the total strength of the lower house, i.e. 43.5% of 542 candidates for which ADR has data of criminal cases against them. This brings to our sight that one in every five elected candidates was accused of heinous or mild criminal charges against them. 19% of the candidates who stood for the 2019 general elections had faced heinous criminal charges against them like rape, murder, and kidnap and as of now, not less than 8% out of 19% are the decision-makers for this glorious democracy.
Understanding the Supreme Court Verdict
In February 2020, the apex court of the country ordered all the registered political parties to publish the criminal cases registered on the names of their candidates who have participated in the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. Publishing their names and the cases registered against them in the public domain should be completed within the 48 hours of the selection of such candidates along with the reasons for giving tickets to such candidates.The Supreme Court verdict of directing the political parties to disclose the criminal cases registered against their candidates enables the public to understand the political behaviour and social behaviour of the candidate which paves the path for a free and fair election in the country which is a basic feature of the Indian constitution. Though there are many other people in the parties without criminal charges, the parties won’t give them a ticket because of the perceived low winning chances. But the elections are not merely a process of winning and attaining power; they are meant to safeguard democracy by choosing the right candidates to voice the concerns of people in the process of decision making and policy creation.
A year has passed since the Supreme Court verdict and we can publicly access the criminal charges registered against the candidates of various parties, but a decrease in the selection of such people as constitutional representatives is yet to be seen and reasons cited by the political parties to select them are often inappropriate. The recent 2020 elections in Bihar and Delhi, saw the highest number of candidates with criminal charges pending against them filing their affidavit and getting elected to the state assemblies. Though there is a public display of their crimes, few of which were heinous, how did the political parties and candidates manage to grab the people’s attention? How did they manage to win? It is in part due to the influence that they got through these cases and being in prison for a few years for the sake of the political party and other political issues that has received enormous fame around the constituencies which they represent in an election. But this should seriously be monitored and the government should implement strict laws in this case to safeguard future generations from the heinous nexus of crime and politics.
The Election Commission of India being a constitutionally established body should bring up serious reforms in this matter. As we know people should not be deprived of their political rights and liberty but at the same time people should not be allowed to change the moral base of the election process. Indian politics should get rid of money and muscle being used to capture power. The Indian election process is world-famous and to uphold its essence the election commission should come up with greater reforms that eliminate the criminals from the decision-making process. The problem lies in large part with the pending cases where many candidates claim the cases to be false and unacceptable. Many criminal cases were indeed filed against them for no reason and just to defame them in the society or to gain influence in a political swing. This is becoming a great hurdle in tackling the original cases and pending cases registered against them and as by the time an election comes, the ECI is not empowered to curtail their political right to contest elections with unproved cases. This is becoming handy for the real offenders to enter into Indian politics. Changing this is the need of the hour today as it will ensure a positive impact on the youth who aspire to be future leaders. The legislation should bring new strict laws like quick investigation of cases with proper reports, analyzing cases registered against the candidates by forming specific committees and empowering the Election Commission of India to take action against the criminally charged candidates. Strict laws and careful examinations are very important with quick actions against the candidates who prove guilty. The election is fundamental for democracy and choosing the right candidate to voice the people in decision-making keeps democracy in a zenith position which is very much required in the present day.
By Bandi Aadhi (Guest Writer)
Bandi Aadhi is a first year student of BA programme (History and Political Science). As a student of political science his interests lie in contemporary socio-political issues going around. He is also fond of reading books, listening to debates, and watching movies.