MP, MLAs criminal cases
In a move to check instances of state governments withdrawing cases against MPs and MLAs, the Supreme Court recently directed that such action cannot be taken without the consent of the state high court.
What are the reasons for not being able to curb the menace of Criminalisation of politics? Analyse the role played by Judiciary in resolving this menace.
Data about criminalisation of politics in India
● It has been observed that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics.
● In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.
● According to the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), Nearly half of the recently elected Lok Sabha members have criminal charges against them. This is a 26% increase as compared to 2014.
About The Judgement of Supreme Court
● “We think it appropriate to instruct that no prosecution against a current or former MP/ MLA be dropped without the permission of the high court,” stated a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, in response to a request from Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, who was appointed amicus curiae.
● It further stated that “judicial officials presiding over Special Courts or CBI Courts involving prosecution of MPs or MLAs should not be moved until further orders” in order to “ensure quick resolution of ongoing cases”.
● The Bench was hearing an ongoing PIL filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who requested that fast-track courts be established for matters involving politicians. In November 2017, the Supreme Court ordered that Special Courts be established in each state to hear pending cases. As a result, 12 similar courts have been established around the country.
● Example Cited: States dropped criminal charges against politicians based on Section 321 of the 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure. Under this clause, the public prosecutor or assistant public prosecutor may withdraw from the prosecution of a matter at any time before the verdict is rendered, with the approval of the court.
Advantage of Judgement:
● Accountability: The political party and its leadership would for the first time have to publicly own up to criminalisation of politics
● Electoral Reforms: It is in line with a series of judgments aimed at preserving the purity of the election process: Asset disclosure, NOTA option, Special courts for quick disposal of cases involving elected representatives
● Informed Citizenry: It increases the information available for Citizens which enables him to take well thought-out decision while choosing his representative.
About the Criminalisation of politics:
● There appears to have been an alarming increase in the number of criminals in politics during the previous four general elections.
● The latest report by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR), 33% MPs in the current Lok Sabha have criminal cases and 21% MPs have been named in serious criminal cases such as kidnapping, hate speech, and those of crimes against women.
Attempts by the courts to clean up politics in the past:
● In Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that all candidates must file an affidavit with the returning officer revealing any criminal proceedings they are facing.
● PUCL v. Union of India: In a 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed individuals’ constitutional right to vote no in elections. The famous directive to implement None of the Above (NOTA) was meant to make political parties think twice about handing contaminated people seats.
● In Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013), the Supreme Court declared Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act invalid, allowing guilty legislators a three-month window to file appeals to a higher court and get a stay on their conviction and punishment.
● Public Interest Foundation and Others v Union of India (2014): In a historic decision, the Supreme Court of India ordered all lower courts to rule on matters involving lawmakers within a year or provide reasons to the chief judge of the high court.
Cleansing the political system is required:
● Politics dominates governance: Because politics controls the bureaucracy and has a stranglehold on business, civil society, and the media, governance must be free of the criminal virus.
Challenges associatedwith it:
● Opponents’ politically motivated cases: Attempts to disqualify candidates who have been charged by a court of law with terrible crimes may assist the governing party’s political vengeance against its opponents.
● Voters’ demand: Today’s legislators are viewed as problem solvers rather than lawmakers.
● With our criminal justice system packed with cases and legal costs that are sometimes out of reach, the local don running for office is frequently viewed as the messiah for swift justice.
● Strong legislation is required: To establish rules governing the operation of political parties, as well as an impartial and independent body to carry them out.
● Being alert: There is a need to be considerably more vigilant in the upcoming elections. This involves keeping track of candidate affidavits.
● Working with the Election Commission to ensure that information is posted on their websites as soon as possible, and widely disseminating this information to voters using all available social media channels.