Supreme court pushes for strong laws to decriminalise politics in India

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Supreme court pushes for strong laws to decriminalise politics in India

  • The Supreme court in India has issued directives to political parties and candidates to give ‘wide publicity’ to any and all ongoing criminal allegations against them.
  • The court has also asked the parliament to bring in laws that allows for the removal of political leaders that are accused of committing ‘heinous and grievous’ crimes.
  • Earlier this year the central government had informed the supreme court that there were currently 3,045 pending cases against MPs and MLAs.
India is in a precarious political situation where more than one-third of its members of parliament (MPs) and members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) are currently facing trial, according to the NN Vohra Committee.
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The supreme court has instructed candidates and political parties to disclose any and all pending criminal cases pending against them to the Election Commission (EC) at the time of nomination.

And, the five-judge constitution bench of the supreme court held that political parties are obligated to publish the information about their respective websites so that voters can make an informed decision when they’re choose the candidate to vote for.

That being said, the supreme court also added that only candidates who have been convicted will be disqualified from participating in the elections, not ones who have only been accused. Ironically.

But for those who have been accused of ‘heinous and grievous’ crimes, the supreme court has urged the parliament to form laws that would enable the removal of such political leaders.

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Leaving no stone unturned

To ensure that political parties and candidates can’t exploit any loophole of the directive, the supreme court has specifically detailed that the submissions to the EC have to be in ‘block letters’.

And, in addition to making the information available online, the supreme court has also said that the political party has to give ‘wide publicity’ to these facts through declarations in the newspapers as well as over electronic media.

After nomination papers have been filed, candidates have to publicise their respective criminal records on television, not once, but thrice.

Criminalisation of politics at entry-level

The study conducted by NN Vohra committee found that India’s intelligence agencies such as RAW, CBI and IB unanimously agreed that there was a criminal network running parallel to the government of India.

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And, with the EC having limited powers, there’s nothing it can do about candidates entering the political race when they’ve only been accused of a crime, but are yet to be convicted.

On average, in the 10 years following 2004, the Law Commission of India reported that 18% of the candidates in state and national elections have had pending criminal cases against them.

Even back in 1990, the Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms pointed out how money and muscle power were crippling the Indian electoral system.

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, this may require parties to switch up their strategies since 1,765 MPs and MLAs of 4,896 are currently facing a criminal trial or the other. There are over 3,045 pending cases of crimes against women according to the an analysis done by the central government in collaboration with the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

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