Electoral Reforms In India

Enact strong laws to cleanse Politics: Supreme Court


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NN Vohra Committee, Read B2B

Mains level: Measures to decriminalize politics in India.


Cleansing Politics

  1. The Supreme Court has directed political parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their candidates.
  2. The court countered the government’s submissions that under the Representation of the People Act, only convicted lawmakers can be disqualified and not accused ones.

Onus on Parliament

  1. The court directed Parliament to frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes and refuse ticket to offenders in all elections.
  2. The Bench however made it clear that it cannot legislate for Parliament by introducing disqualification to ban candidates facing trial for heinous crimes from contesting elections.

Full disclosures

  1. The court directed that candidates should disclose their criminal past to the EC in “block letters.”
  2. Candidates should make a full disclosure of the criminal cases pending against them to the political parties under whose banner they intend to contest the polls.
  3. The parties, in turn, should put up the complete details of their candidates on their websites for public consumption.
  4. Further, both the candidate and the political party should declare the criminal antecedents of the former in widely-circulated newspapers.
  5. Finally, both the candidate and the political party should give “wide publicity” to the criminal record of the former by airing it on TV channels, not once, but thrice after the filing of nomination papers.

Why such move?

  1. It ensures that ordinary voters can have an “informed choice” about who he or she has to vote for in a country which already feels agonised when money and muscle power become the supreme power.
  2. The best available people, as is expected by the democratic system, should not have criminal antecedents and the voters have a right to know about their antecedents, assets and other aspect.

Criminals Nexus- Running a Parallel Govt.

  1. The court referred to how the N.N. Vohra Committee, which was set up following a public outcry after the 1993 Mumbai blasts after its study of the problem of criminalization of politics and their nexus with officials.
  2. The committee had concluded that agencies, including the CBI, IB, RAW, had unanimously expressed their opinion that the criminal network was virtually running a parallel government.

Need for new Law

  1. The ECI has its hands tied, helplessly watching as criminalization of politics at the entry level is on the rise.
  2. A person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty and nothing prevents an accused, who won an election on public mandate, from becoming a lawmaker.
  3. The court said the danger of false cases foisted on candidates can be addressed by the parliament in the new law.

Way Forward

  1. Criminalization of politics and corruption, especially at the entry level of elections, has become a national and economic terror.
  2. The directions to political parties to go public about the criminal cases against their candidates are a step to foster and nurture an informed citizenry.
  3. Disclosure of antecedents makes the election a fair one and the exercise of the right of voting by the electorate also gets sanctified.
  4. It is to protect the culture and purity in politics.


Bane of Criminal Politics in India

  1. The Law Commission of India, in its 244th report, succinctly put it that instead of politicians having suspected links to criminal networks, as was the case earlier, it was persons with extensive criminal backgrounds who began entering politics.
  2. The Law Commission said that in the 10 years since 2004, 18% of the candidates contesting either national or State elections had criminal cases against them (11,063 out of 62,847).
  3. The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms, as early as in 1990, highlighted the crippling effect of money and muscle power in elections.
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