India stands as a model for many emerging democracies around the world. Free and fair elections are the hallmark of a well functioning democracy. While we are justifiably proud of our democracy, there are a number of areas which need to be strengthened for us to realise the true potential of a well functioning democracy The Preamble to the Constitution declares India to be a Democratic, Republic. All of us who are working for protection & upholding the civil rights of the citizens of India are deeply concerned with democratic polity of the country. One of the most important features of the democratic polity is elections at regular intervals. Elections constitute the signpost of the democracy; these are medium through which the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people towards their political environment are reflected. Elections are the central democratic procedure for selecting and controlling leaders. Elections grant people a government and the government has constitutional right to govern those who elect it. Elections symbolize the sovereignty of the people and provide legitimacy to the authority of the government. Thus, free & fair elections are indispensable for the success of the democracy.
The criminalisation of our political system has been observed almost unanimously by all recent committees on politics and electoral reform. Criminalisation 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. It is well known that all parties take the help of criminal elements to dominate the election scene in India. But this process is influencing the mind and the will of the people both to gain the majority to rule the country according to their will. The system of democracy is now changing into the dictatorship of some. Because the democracy of India are now in hands of the criminal who are not capable any way to hold the post if legislature.
Components of Criminalization of Politics:-
- Muscle Power: – The influence of muscle power in Indian politics has been a fact of life for a long time. The manner, in which different political parties have functioned, particularly on the eve of periodic election, involves the free use of musclemen and Dadas to influence the attitude and conduct of sizable sections of the electorate. The Panchayat elections, like other elections in the recent past, have demonstrated once again that there can be no sanity in India as long as politics continues to be based on caste and community
- Gangsters: - The politicians are thriving today on the basis of muscle power provided by criminals. The common people who constitute the voters are in most cases too reluctant to take measures that would curtail the criminal activities. Once the political aspect joins the criminal elements the nexus becomes extremely dangerous. Many of politicians chose muscle power to gain vote bank in the country, and they apply the assumption that, if we are unable to bring faith in the community then we can generate fear or threat to get the power in the form of election.
- Money Power: – The elections to Parliament and State Legislatures are very expensive and it is a widely accepted fact that huge election expenditure is the root cause for corruption in India. A candidate has to spend lakhs of rupees to get elected and even if he gets elected, the total salary he gets during his tenure as an MP/MLA will be meagre compared to his election expenses. How can he bridge the gap between the income and expenses? Publicly through donations and secretly through illegal means. The expenditure estimation for an election estimated as Rs 5 per voter as election expenditure, for 600 million voters, and calculation of all the expenses in a general election estimated around Rs 2,000 crore. Then there is the period between elections. This requires around Rs 250 crore. Then there are state elections and local elections. All told, the system has to generate around Rs 5,000 crore in a five year cycle or Rs 1,000 crore on average each year. Where is this money to come from? Only criminal activity can generate such large sums of untaxed funds. That is why you have criminals in politics. They have money and muscle, so they win and help others in their party win as well.
Criminalization of Politics in the 15th Lok Shaba at a glance-
Election Commission of India has recently in May 2009, conducted general elections for 15th Lok Sabha at 543 constituencies all over India. Let us have a look at the status of criminalization data in Indian politics.
|MPs with criminal records||128||150||22||17.2%|
|Total Criminal cases on MPs||429||412||-17||-4%|
|MPs with serious criminal records||55||72||17||30.9%|
Since last 15 years, not a single election has conducted peacefully without use of money or muscle power and domestic violence. Sometimes rival candidates got killed in a bid to have the elections cancelled. All these acts of lawlessness and violence have become possible because of the growing links between many politicians and criminal/anti-social elements. Some of the Bigwigs in this field who have left a mark at being people who have committed heinous crime and acted as leader’s are:
Mohammad Sahabuddin was elected to four successive terms in the Indian Parliament from 1996-2008 from Siwan constituency Bihar on RJD ticket. In 1996, Sahabuddin was named as a Minister of State for the Home Ministry in the H.D. Deve Gowda government. He is currently serving a life sentence for kidnapping with intent to murder and as many as 34 cases of serious crime are pending against him.
Mukhtar Ansari is commonly referred to as “the Sahabuddin of UP”, is an Indian politician from Maunath Bhanjan or Mau in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Most recently he won the Mau seat in the Uttar Pradesh Elections, 2007 as an Independent while lodged initially at Ghazipur jail.
Atiq Ahmad he was a member of the 14th Lok Sabha from the Phulpur Lok Sabha Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He is currently in prison facing trial in 35 criminal cases including several cases of murder. In the Indian general elections, 2009, Atiq Ahmad was allowed to run for election since he is yet to be convicted in any case.
Criminalization of politics in India has attained a stage, where it needs serious attention from the citizens, government and political parties as there was a steady decline in values of all sections of our society. Criminalization of politics has led to immense pressure on functioning of political institution. The worst part of picture is that “criminal record” becomes an essential qualification for entry into politics. In India Politics is not a social service anymore, instead it emerged as a lucrative profession or business.
- Disclosure of criminal antecedents of candidates
In its report on Proposed Election Reforms, 2004, the Election Commission of India recommended that an amendment should be made to Section 125A of the R.P. Act, 1951 to provide for more stringent punishment for concealing or providing wrong information on Form 26 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to minimum two years imprisonment and removing the alternative punishment of assessing a fine upon the candidate.
- Eligibility of candidates with criminal cases pending against them
The Election Commission proposed in its 2004 report that Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be amended to disqualify candidates accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment of 5 years or more even when trial is pending, given that the Court has framed charges against the person. In the report the Commission addresses the possibility that such a provision could be misused in the form of motivated cases by the ruling party. To prevent such misuse, the Commission suggested a compromise whereas only cases filed prior to six months before an election would lead to disqualification of a candidate. In addition, the Commission proposed that Candidates found guilty by a Commission of Enquiry should stand disqualified.
To check the rot, several committees and commissions have been appointed for electoral reforms and to look into the gravity of matter. It seems that establishing committees/commissions becomes a routine activity of Indian government or we say that it is a new trend in vogue! These committees have suggested several measures like T.N. Seshan in 1992 the then chief election commissioner of India aimed at eradicating criminalization of politics. With the efforts of election commission in India, now declaration of all charges pending against a political aspirant becomes obligatory through an affidavit along with nomination form. There is a limit on election spending during campaign etc. The concept of “judicial Activism” is also worth mentioning in this issue. But still a lot has to be done to stem the rot. However, law alone cannot clean the electoral system.
Student, BBA.LLB, Symbiosis Law School
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]