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OWNING UP TO CRIMINALISATION IN POLITICS

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

A February 2020 Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politics may have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy, as it will first be implemented in the coming Bihar elections in October 2020.

Court’s directives

Earlier Orders

Earlier orders state that

  1. Each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;
  2. Each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her; and
  3. The party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates.

New Order

  • The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
  • The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles. 
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • The Court has asked the political parties to state “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.”
  • The Court has said that “winnability” cannot be cited as a reason.

An ever-present crisis

  • There is a steady deterioration in politics over decades, with the decline accelerating in the past 16 years, given the increasing number of MPs and MLAs with Criminal cases against them.
  • Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, as the data show, and one of reasons is lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
  • Even for the current Supreme Court order it is not clear what penalty would be imposed if the orders are not followed.

Way Forward: Being Vigilant

  • There needs to be an increased and sincere monitoring the affidavits of candidates.
  • Working with the Election Commission in monitoring compliance with the Supreme Court judgment to see if details of tainted candidates are promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles, along with proper reasons for giving them ticket.
  • Voters also need to be vigilant about misuse of money, gifts and other inducements during elections.
  • Voters also need to be wary of fake news, trolling, and fanciful claims.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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