The latest verdict of Supreme Court should be warm welcomed as a initiative towards cleaning up the electoral system. SC has ruled out that all convicted parliamentary leaders and legislators will be disqualified from holding public office with immediate effect. But, unsurprisingly, parties are gearing up to encounter the ruling on the baseless ground that the ruling interferes with the elected procedure to the extent that it narrows down the list of nominees that parties can pick to contest elections.
Politicians are the icon of the society. They represents the nation or state for the society. They should not have a criminal past or present. But in india, the facts may shock many of us. Out of 543 loksabha seats 162 members of Parliament have criminal charges against them. Seventy-six of them face serious charges comprising murder and rape. The scenario is even worse in state legislative assemblies and councils. According to election watchdogs Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch (NEW), of the 4,896 lawmakers—members of Parliament and legislators—who voted for the presidential election last year, 1,448 faced criminal charges. In their affidavits before the Election Commission earlier, 641 had cited serious charges such as kidnapping, extortion, murder and rape.
Politics and crime should be sea distance, and courts would not be intervening to curb criminals from becoming politicians and vice versa. But let’s face the truth. Politics in our country is much more multifarious. It does not render itself easily to idealistic propositions. Courts may be successful in keeping criminals out of representative institutions, but they cannot keep them out of politics. At the ground level reality where politics plays out rough and dirty, both worlds have a synergetic existence.
In our country, political parties need criminals as much the criminals need the former. At the ground level, inclusion of political impact and power takes place through violence. Politics is truly violent and bloodthirsty in villages of our country. We know of the fights between the Congress cadre and left in Kerala stretching for generations, between the Trinamool Congress and the left in West Bengal, Congress and political rivals in some states and betwen Sangh Parivar elements and the Congress in others. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the top in list who made their name for nonterminating violence. There’s simply no sense in pointing out any special party or state. The fact is such violence is inherent to our political culture.
India needs a complete change up in its electoral politics. It drives even without saying. Since the political class won’t wield the broom to clean its own mess, the effort has to come from the courts. The Supreme Court’s verdict on convicted lawmakers is laudable indeed. The only question arises is why it took so long, this judgment should have come just after the independence.
The primitive nature of our politics at the ground level is the reason parties either outsource toughs and ensure safeguard for themselves while being in power, or they promote them in-house. Now, if political violence is a actual crime, I don’t think any party can claim to be free of violence or criminal party. That being the case, does the Supreme Court landmark verdict really sufficient? The association between politicians and criminals will be continue in spite of this. The benefit for the parties is they can plead helplessness when goons seek party tickets. But they will need to reimburse in other ways.
Interestingly, the ruling court gave a reprieve to existing parliamentarians and legislators from having to step down even if they have been convicted of serious crimes – so long as they have proffered appeals.
The judges ruled:
“Sitting members of Parliament and State Legislature who have already been convicted for any of the offences mentioned in… Section 8 of the Act and who have filed appeals or revisions which are pending and are accordingly saved from the disqualifications… should not, in our considered opinion, be affected by the declaration now made by us in this judgment.”
The ultimate test of the efficiency of “landmark verdict” is whether it will advance the project to clean up the electoral system. On that count, however, there is cause for looking the ruling with some sobriety. That enterprise requires a more broadbased reform of electoral laws, which today puts those with influence power and money power’ at a distinct benefit, comes at election time.
The court’s judgment is a enjoyable step for a good electoral system but needed a lot more verdicts from SC for a crime free political system. Don’t be astonished if political parties find a way.