15th February 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – In the light of the recent Supreme Court judgement about decriminalizing politics, analyse what is criminalization of politics and it is the sole responsibility of the judiciary? If not then what is the way ahead.
- Context – In a far-reaching verdict aimed at decriminalising Indian politics, the apex court on Thursday directed 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 ticket to those without criminal antecedents.
What is meant by criminalisation of politics?
The general meaning:
- When politics or political power is used by self-interest-seeking persons for pecuniary gains or various other advantages such as to get special position in administration or to rise to the higher stage of administration which is normally not feasible.
- o criminalisation of politics means to use politics or political power for nefarious gains. To gain something not legal or normal has been called crime. Here the word crime is used in politics in special sense.
- For example an officer in administration wants to be promoted to higher post. But this is not his due.He uses politics or political power to achieve this. The person succeeds. But the matter does not stop here. The person who helped to get undue privilege will again use this person for the achievement of his purposes which are, in normal course, not due. This is the policy of give-and-take.
A deeper analysis:
- “Criminalization of Politics” refers to those acts carried out by persons with Legislative, Judicial or Executive Authority, (as opposed to the belief that it is limited to political authority) which undermine the constitutional fundamentals of India.
- The modern definition of Criminalization in politics tends to incorporate more than just the criminalization in “Politics” (in the purer sense of the term) and extends the scope of the term to forms of criminalization in Electoral Politics, Policy-making Politics, Judiciary, Executive and even the Administration. This is so because the modern day definition of Politics imbibes in itself the concept of “Governance” which is holistic.
Causes of criminalisation in politics:
- The most important cause of criminalisation of politics is the unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucracy. This undesirable and dangerous relationship between bureaucracy and political leaders opened the door of criminalisation of politics.
- The interference of politicians in the administration may be regarded as another reason of criminalisation of politics.
- Caste and religion both are equally responsible for the criminalisation of politics. It has been found that a minister of a particular caste or religion will distribute favour to the members of his own caste and religion. In many states of India this is found.
- Un-development, illiteracy, poverty and prismatic nature of Indian social system are collectively responsible for the criminalisation of politics. The shrewd and self-interest-seeking politicians —in collaboration with corrupt civil servants — adopt various types of unfair means to satisfy their greediness and ill-motives.
- In post-independent India strong public opinion against corrupt practices has not developed. Each person knows that that system or practice is corrupt. But there is nobody to protest against it. Rather, he thinks that this is the system and he accepts it. This tendency has finally opened the door of the criminalisation of politics.
- Many political parties of India fielded candidates who had criminal cases against them. Some of these candidates also won in elections. Two points may be made here. One is—the parties fielded the candidates who had criminal background. It means that the parties do not give due importance to this black spot.
- The simple implication is that the criminal activities of candidates are not important. The other is that the voters have helped these candidates to win. While exercising franchise it is the duty of the voters to take information about the candidates.
- It can therefore be concluded that both voters and parties are equally responsible for the criminalisation of politics.
Kinds of criminalisation in politics:
- Electoral fraud – Electoral Fraud refers to such acts which disrupt a process of fair elections illegally. However, acts which disrupt fair elections but are not illegal, may also be referred to as electoral fraud, on moral grounds.
- Political candidates with criminal records/pending – Criminalization of politics has many forms, but perhaps the most alarming among them is the significant number of elected representatives with criminal charges pending against them. A common happening in the electoral politics of today, is musclemen using the fear psychosis to gather votes. They fear the weak and poor to vote for a specific candidate or manipulate the vote-banks. At various instances, musclemen have been used to scare away competing candidates (and their means may extend to inflicting damage and even causing death at times).
- It is widely believed that the cost of fighting elections has climbed far above the legal spending limits. This has resulted in lack of transparency, widespread corruption, and the pervasiveness of so-called ‘black money’.
- Political scams.
- Criminal gangs enjoying patronage of politicians – The nexus between the criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country and 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 national parliament.
Consequences of criminalisation of politics:
- If an officer in administration wants to be promoted to higher post, but this is not his due, he uses politics or political power to achieve this. The person succeeds. But the matter does not stop here. The person who helped to get undue privilege will again use this person for the achievement of his purposes which are, in normal course, not due. This policy of give-and-take continues and this becomes the root cause of corruption spreading at all levels.
- Crime and corruption flourishes – Patronage from the political parties and protection from laws. By siding with the politicians, they smoothly carry out illegal activities without fear of punitive action against them.
- This impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of institutions and thereby, erodes the trust of people in the government.
Legislative initiatives to check criminalisation of politics:
- Section 8 of Representation of People Act, 1951 lays down certain rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. 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.
- RoPA, 1951 disqualifies a candidate for the use of corrupt practices at the election.
- Under the provisions of Finance Bill 2017, the maximum cash donation that a political party can receive is not to exceed 2000 Rupees per person.
- Reforms in Corporate Funding has been done by removing the limit of 7.5% of net profit, for the contribution a company can make to the political parties. Further parties need not to disclose the name of donors.
- In order to get exemption, from the paying income tax every political party would have to file its return in accordance with the provisions of the Income-tax Act.
- Introduction of Electoral bonds is a positive step taken in the direction of decriminalizing politics, as these bonds may reduce the use of Black Money in politics.
Steps taken by the judiciary to check criminalisation of politics:
- Directions to ensure the asset disclosure and criminal records of candidates.
- The incorporation of ‘none of the above’ option in the voting machine
- And the invalidation of a cause that protected sitting legislators from immediate disqualification after conviction.
- In addition, the court has directed the establishment of special courts in all states for the quick disposal of cases involving elected representatives.
Steps taken by the Election Commission:
- Effective implementation of the Model code of conduct.
- Mandatory declaration of assets.
- Election Commission of India has demanded more independence and Financial Autonomy from Government Control to have more free hand over the Criminalizing Activities in politics.
- It must be underscored that de-criminalisation of politics cannot be achieved by judicial fiat alone. The political class has to respond to the challenge. They should choose their candidates more responsibly.
- But the larger question is what good will more information on a candidate’s background do if voters back a particular leader or party without reference to the record of the of the candidate fielded. The voters have to be more responsible too. They hold the ultimate baton.
Note- there are two articles on the economy. All the points mentioned have already been covered. Refer to the articles of 1st october, 1st August, 26th August and 7th February.