Electoral Reforms In India

Parties get 48 hours to publish candidates’ criminal records


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : De-criminalization of Politics

The Supreme Court has directed the political parties to publish the criminal history if any, of their election candidates on the homepage of their party websites under the caption ‘candidates with criminal antecedents’ within 48 hours of their selection.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. According to the Constitution of India, a person who is eligible to vote can be made a minister in a State for six months even if he/she is not a member of the Legislature of that State.
  2. According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for five years is permanently disqualified from contesting an election even after his release from prison.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2020)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Post your answers here:
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Criminalization of politics: Indian Case

  • The criminalization of politics has become a headache for the Indian democracy and it is a harsh reality now.
  • Criminalization of politics in India includes political control of the police, state money, corruption, weak laws, lack of ethics, values, vote bank politics and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
  • Deep down, it’s a large nexus of police, money, corrupt bureaucracy, casteism, religion and the drawbacks of functioning in the election commission.

On a serious note

  • The Supreme Court has warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties for covering up from voters the criminal past of the candidates.
  • Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government.
  • The court said it did not take political parties much time to flout its February 2020 judgment, which had directed them to prominently publish the criminal antecedents.

What was the Feb 2020 Judgment?

The Supreme Court earlier in Feb 2020 had ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

  • Reasons for nomination: It has also asked for the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
  • Publication of records: The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • 48hr time frame: It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
  • Contempt for non-compliance: It also ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.
  • No escape: The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

Immediate Reason

  • The immediate provocation is the finding that 46% of MPs have criminal records.
  • The number might be inflated as many politicians tend to be charged with relatively minor offences —“unlawful assembly” and “defamation”.
  • The real worry is that the current cohort of Lok Sabha MPs has the highest (29%) proportion of those with serious declared criminal cases compared to its recent predecessors.

Why are such tainted candidates inducted by political parties?

  • Popularity: Such candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
  • Vested interests: Some voters tend to view such candidates through a narrow prism: of being able to represent their interests by hook or by crook.
  • Destabilizing other electors: Others do not seek to punish these candidates in instances where they are in contest with other candidates with similar records.

A harsh reality

  • The NN Vohra committee’s report on the criminalization of politics discussed how criminal gangs flourish under the care and protection of politicians.
  • Many times the candidates themselves are the gang leaders.
  • This protection is paid back to them during elections through capital investment in election spending and voter support.

Need for clean politics

  • Upholding morality: It is extremely important that the people who enter the field of politics have a clear image and high moral character.
  • Ensuring rule of law: A leader with criminal character undoubtedly tends to undermine the rule of law.

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