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  • 05 November, 2022

  • 5 Min Read

Criminalization of Politics

Criminalization of Politics

  • Two lawmakers from the state of Uttar Pradesh were recently found guilty on criminal charges, but only one of them has been disqualified and had his seat proclaimed empty by the secretariat of the Legislative Assembly of the State.

What is political criminalization?

Legal Aspects of Criminal Candidates' Disqualification:

  • The Indian Constitution is ambiguous regarding what prevents a person from running in elections for the Parliament, Legislative Assembly, or any other legislative in this regard.
  • The requirements for disqualifying a person from running in a legislative election are listed in the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) of 1951.
  • Section 8 of the act, or disqualification upon conviction for certain offences, states that a person sentenced to more than two years in prison is not eligible to run for office for six years after serving the sentence.

Safety from Disqualification:

  • Legislators could delay instant disqualification (until 2013 Supreme Court decision) under Section 8(4) of the RPA.
  • The clause states that state or federal politicians and members of parliament will not be disqualified for three months.
  • If you do so, it won't go into effect until the appeal or application is resolved.
  • The Supreme Court declared clause (4) unlawful in Lily Thomas v. Union of India, 2013, eliminating the protection enjoyed by legislators.

Related Powers of the Supreme Court:

  • The Supreme Court has the authority to halt both a person's conviction and sentence. In a few uncommon instances, a conviction has been postponed to allow the appellant to run for office.
  • The SC has stated, however, that such a stay should be extremely uncommon and for unique circumstances. The Election Commission is a remedy offered by the RPA itself. According to Section 11 of the Act, the EC may note the reasons for a person's disqualification and either lift it or shorten its duration.

What are the Reasons for the Criminalization of Politics?

  • Lack of Enforcement: Several laws and court rulings haven't had much of an impact because they aren't being enforced.
  • Vested Interests: Publishing a candidate's whole criminal past may not be very beneficial because many voters choose to cast their ballots based only on issues that pertain to their caste or religion.
  • Utilization of Force and Financial Power: Candidates with solid backgrounds appear to perform well despite their reputations, partly as a result of their capacity to fund their own races and contribute significant financial resources to their respective parties.
  • In rare cases, voters are also without a choice because every candidate running for office has a criminal past.

What are the Consequences of Political Criminalization?

  • It limits voters' options for choosing a qualified candidate, which is against the principle of a free and fair election.
  • It goes against the democratic ideal of free and fair elections, which is its cornerstone.
  • Affecting Good Governance: The main issue is that lawbreakers now have the power to enact laws, which has an impact on how well the democratic process can produce good governance.
  • These unwholesome democratic tendencies portray an unfavourable picture of the state institutions of India and the calibre of its elected officials.
  • Affecting the Integrity of Public Servants: It also increases the flow of illicit funds during and after elections, which worsens societal corruption and impairs the performance of public officials.
  • Causes Social Discord: It instils a culture of violence in society, creates a poor example for young people to follow, and erodes public confidence in democracy as a form of government.

Way Forward

  • State sponsorship of elections has been advocated by a number of committees (including Dinesh Goswami and the Inderjeet Committee) looking into electoral reforms. This will significantly reduce the use of black money in elections and, as a result, the criminalization of politics.
  • Increasing the effectiveness of the Election Commission is necessary to ensure a more transparent electoral process. Strengthening the Indian Election Commission is therefore essential.
  • Voters must exercise caution when it comes to the improper use of gifts, money, and other inducements during elections.

Read Also: Election Commission & Election Symbol

Source: The Hindu

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