Decriminalisation of Politics
Supreme Court had directed political parties to list out reasons on their website including their social media platforms for nominating candidates with criminal background.
• The court asked the political parties to publish reasons as to why they are selected, as also for not giving ticket to those without criminal antecedents.
• The top court noted that 24 per cent of the MPs had criminal cases pending against them in 2004, while in 2009, it went to 30 per cent. Further, in 2014, 34 per cent of MPs had pending criminal cases against them, which increased to 43 per cent in 2019.
• Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 lays down certain rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. It says that a person convicted by court and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of more than 2 years is disqualified from contesting elections for the imprisoned period and a further period of 6 years since his release.
When it comes to crimes against women, the number of candidates facing such charges has sky rocketed over the years. As many as 76 lawmakers across the country have declared cases related to crimes against women.
Supreme Court in Union of India vs. Association for Democratic Reforms, 2002 held that the voters enjoy right to make informed choices during elections and hence directed Election Commission to make it mandatory for contesting candidates to declare their assets and liabilities, also that of their spouses and dependent children, any criminal conviction in the court of law, any criminal case pending and the educational qualifications at the time of filing the nomination papers.
In 1997, Supreme Court directed the High Courts to not suspend the conviction of a person if he is convicted under The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Supreme Court in Lily Thomas vs. Union of India, 2013 held Section 8(4) as unconstitutional and void. Hence, now if a sitting Member of Parliament or state legislature is convicted and sentenced to not less than 2 years of imprisonment, he will get immediately disqualified from being member of house. This is a crucial judgment and will go a long way in cleaning our political system.
In another recent judgment, Supreme Court held that a voter could exercise the option of negative voting (NOTA) and reject all candidates as unworthy of being elected.
For a true decriminalization of politics, the instant need is to abolish the patronage to criminals which is often given by politicians and political parties. A strong political will is required on the part of government to decriminalize the entire political system by taking stringent measures as well as by enactment of required legislations. Supreme Court has also held that free and fair election is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. There is an urgent need to break the criminal-political nexus. Unless some decisive action is taken soon, the public will lose all faith in politics, politicians and democracy itself. This will do irreparable damage to our republic and its integrity.
PEPPER IT WITH
Article 164, 361 B, Xth Schedule