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Criminalisation of Politics

Why in the news?

Currently, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) disclosed that, in advance of the 2023 Assembly Elections in Karnataka, the number of candidates with criminal charges has surged in all major political parties, emphasizing the issue of the criminalization of politics.

Candidates convicted of major crimes should no longer be eligible to run for office, according to the ADR. Such exclusions, though, have not yet been put into practice.

Describe political criminalization

Towards:

  • Criminalization of politics is the act of criminals engaging in political activity, such as running for office and winning seats in state and federal legislatures.
  • It now poses a serious threat to our society and undermines fundamental democratic values like election fairness, adherence to the law, and accountability.

Demography:

Statistics:-

  • Data from the ADR show that since 2004, there have been more candidates elected to the Indian Parliament who had criminal accusations against them.
  • In 2004, 24% of lawmakers had active criminal cases; by 2019, that number had increased to 43%.
  • According to a petition submitted in February 2023, since 2009, there has been a 44% increase in the number of MPs having declared criminal cases.
  • 159 MPs have significant criminal cases against them in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, including rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and offences towards women.

What are the reasons that politics has become illegal?

Voting Bank:

  • Candidates and parties frequently enlist the aid of people known as "goondas," who use illicit tactics including vote-buying and other dubious methods.
  • Close ties between politicians and their constituents frequently serve to sustain this culture of political crime by creating a favorable climate for the abuse of authority and resources for personal benefit, which breeds corruption and criminal activity.

Corruption:

  • Most candidates running for office need money, resources, and gifts. It is important to remember that disrespect for the law immediately results from corruption.
  • Disrespect for the law and the criminalization of politics are closely related. Corrupt practices start to develop when lawlessness and the criminalization of politics come together.

Muscle Power:

  • During elections, politicians make pledges to reduce corruption and graft, but they rarely keep them.
  • The candidate who receives the most votes wins under the First Past the Post (FPTP) system. The philosophy behind utilizing force is that if parties can't build trust, fear and violence can help them win.
  • The simple majority system is another name for the FPTP method. The candidate who receives the most votes in a constituency is proclaimed the victor under this voting procedure.
  • This forges a perilous link between criminals and political parties.

Vested Interests:

  • The criminal histories of the politicians are typically ignored by voters, who cast their ballots primarily based on local interests.
  • Because they support the interests of a certain group, politicians with criminal records may end up being elected rather than being held accountable for their deeds.

Money Power:

  • The criminalization of politics has a huge impact on the flow of black money and mafia financing. Due to the use of these illicit funds to influence elections and buy votes, there is an increase in the criminalization of politics.

Deficient Government:

  • The nation's weak governance is a significant factor in the growing criminalization of politics. There are no suitable laws or regulations to control the electoral process.
  • There is only the Model Code of Conduct, which is likewise not covered by any laws.

Intolerance of Caste and Religion:

  • People still adhere to the caste system and favor candidates based on it rather than taking into account the candidate's true background.

Model Code of Conduct:

  • Almost all elections display its flagrant violation.

Inadequate Awareness:

  • There are restrictions on informing voters of candidates with criminal histories.

Reports of the Law Commission:

  • The Representation of People Act of 1951 should be modified, according to the Law Commission's 179th report. 
  • It was suggested that those having criminal histories be barred from office for five years or until they were found not guilty.
  •  It was also advised that anyone wishing to run for office provide information regarding any open cases, along with a copy of the FIR or complaint, as well as provide information regarding all assets. But because there was no agreement among the major parties, the government's suggestion went unacted upon.

Statements from the Supreme Court:

  • All political parties are required to publicize information on ongoing criminal investigations involving their preferred candidates not only in local newspapers but also on their websites and social media accounts.
  • directions to guarantee that candidates' criminal histories and asset disclosure are up to date.
  • the creation of special courts in each State to handle cases involving elected officials quickly.

What Consequences Follow from the Criminalization of Politics?

  • It limits the options for voters to choose a suitable candidate, which is against the principle of free and fair elections.
  • 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 unfavorable picture of the state institutions of India and the calibre of its elected officials.
  • Affecting Public Servants' Integrity: The flow of black money makes it simpler for politicians to protect their positions by buying votes, which creates a climate where corrupt actions become accepted and integrated into the political system.
  • This makes it challenging for sincere government employees to perform their jobs well and may decrease public confidence in the administration.
  • Causes Social Discord: It instills 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.

The Future Perspectives:

ECI should have more power: 

  • To combat black money and prevent the criminalization of politics, committees on electoral reform have advocated strengthening the Election Commission and paying elections with public funds.

Duty of Voters:

  • Concerning election-related financial abuse, voters should exercise caution. 
  • The judiciary should take a proactive stance by contemplating prohibiting those who have been charged with severe crimes from running for office.

Quick Judicial Procedures:

  • The legal system can be expedited to remove both criminal and corrupt individuals from the political system. a framework for delivering justice that is time-bound, firmer action by the ECI, and appropriate tightening of pertinent laws.

RPA Amendment: 

  • An amendment to the RPA 1951 is necessary to prevent those whose cases for significant offenses are still pending from running in elections. This is due to the growing criminalization of politics.

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