General Studies Paper 2
Context: Citizens have reconciled to a failed criminal justice system and thus not only do they elect MPs and MLAs with criminal records but also applaud extra judicial killings.
Criminalization of Politics
- It means the participation of criminals in politics. This means that persons with criminal backgrounds contest in the election and get selected as a member of parliament or state legislature
- Major Reasons:
- Criminalization of political parties is a result of the connection between criminals and politicians and vote-bank politics
- Lack of enforcement of laws and judgments
- lack of ethics, and values, and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
- It is also linked to political control of state machinery and corruption
- The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system.
Issues of Criminalization of Politics
- Elected members with criminal records:
- Nearly 40 percent of members of the current Parliament have criminal cases pending against them.
- Most of them do not feel vulnerable or threatened as they are aware that it will take years for trials to conclude.
- Question of safety & security:
- The main purpose of governance is to provide safety and security to citizens who elect their representatives for this role.
- But if the elected members themselves have criminal records, would they be interested in a criminal justice system that is prompt and efficient?
- Low conviction rate:
- As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2021 report, only 10,416 cases of murder were disposed of during the year with just a 42.4 percent conviction rate.
- The Law minister has admitted to more than 4.7 crore cases pending in various courts.
- Situation in police stations:
- Politicians play a very powerful role at police stations, compromising both integrity and impartiality of field staff.
- In due course, ordinary criminals graduate to be dreaded ones and form gangs extorting money, grabbing land, threatening witnesses in criminal cases, etc.
Various Initiatives were taken in this context
- Over the years, there have been some attempts at decriminalizing politics and alarm calls raised with regard to the imperative need for reform.
- Vohra Committee:
- The Vohra Committee set up by the Centre in 1993 sounded a note of warning saying that “some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed senas and, over the years, get themselves elected to local bodies, state assemblies, and the national Parliament.”
- Law Commission’s 179th report:
- The Law commission in its 179th report recommended an amendment to the Representation of people act 1951.
- It suggested the people with criminal backgrounds should be disqualified for five years or until acquittal.
- It also recommended that the person who wants to contest the election must furnish details regarding any pending case, with the copy of the FIR/complaint, and also furnish details of all assets.
- But no action was taken on the recommendation by the government due to a lack of consensus amongst the political parties.
- Supreme Court’s judgments & orders:
- In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that every candidate contesting election has to declare his criminal and financial records along with educational qualifications.
- In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that a sitting MP or MLA will be disqualified from contesting the election if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more by a court of law.
- In 2014, the apex court accepted the Law Commission recommendations and passed an order directing that trials against sitting MPs and MLAs should be concluded within a year of charges being framed and conducted on a day-to-day basis.
- As a follow-up to these directives, in 2017, the Union government started a scheme to establish 12 special courts for a year to fast-track the trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs.
- The apex court in 2021 directed the political parties to upload on their websites and social media platforms the details of pending criminal cases against their candidates and the reasons for selecting them as also for not giving tickets to those without criminal antecedents.
- Rightful demands:
- In this bleak scenario, our reaction as citizens should be to demand more courts, judges and judicial infrastructure and not to encourage “encounters”, which we seem to be applauding.
- Stopping the electability of criminals:
- Checking the nexus between crime, money, and muscle power will be among the first few steps required to be taken.
- The growing dependence of political parties on criminals for muscle power and “electability” must be stopped.
- It is high time all political parties came together and developed a consensus on keeping criminals — some with serious charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, grave corruption, and crimes against women — out of the system.
- Vigilant voters:
- Voters also need to be vigilant about the misuse of money, gifts, and other inducements during election.
- Efficient Use of technology:
- The use of technology as often stated by the current Chief Justice of India, is a potent weapon to ensure speedy trials.
- Citizens need to build up public opinion for the introduction of online court hearings at all levels.
- Courts shall curtail frequent adjournments and reduce the trial duration. Court production of jail inmates can also be online and relieve police from escort duties.
- For minor ailments, telemedicine facilities can be used for persons in custody.
- This will result in more police persons being available on the ground.
- Regular training of Police force:
- Police officers need to be regularly trained about the Constitution and human rights so that they do not resort to their guns.
- It is unfortunate that after their basic police training, very few officers undergo in-service courses either in law or investigation.
- Online training:
- Of late, online training is becoming popular in many state police organisations.
- As per the Bureau of Police Research and Development, vacancies in police all over the country range at around 20 percent. Police station officers are thus reluctant to relieve their field staff for training in police academies.
- Online training modules can bridge the gap.
- The road ahead is long and winding. Sane voices against unconstitutional methods are not only being ignored but decried.
- Technology and public pressure is required for an efficient criminal justice system to be the civilised alternative to the gung-ho gun culture.
- It is in the interest of the most populous country in the world to invest in training its law enforcers and equip its judiciary with sufficient resources.