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Association of Democratic Reforms Data on MPs

Context:

  • Recently, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) scrutinized the affidavits of the sitting MPs and revealed several sitting MPs with criminal charges.

Criminalisation of Politics in India

  • It is a phenomenon, where individuals with criminal charges are elected to positions of power, posing a significant threat to the democratic fabric of the nation.
  • It refers to the involvement of individuals with criminal charges or backgrounds in Indian politics. It means that persons with criminal backgrounds contest in the election and get selected as a members of parliament or state legislature.

Major Reasons

  • Unholy Nexus between Bureaucracy and Politicians; Religion and Caste; Vote Bank Politics; Ineffective Legal Provisions; and Lack of Transparency and Accountability etc.

The Extent of the Problem: Key Findings of ADR

  • Criminal Charges: Out of the 514 sitting Lok Sabha MPs analyzed, 225 (44%) have declared criminal cases against themselves.
  • ADR revealed that among the sitting MPs with criminal charges, 29% face serious criminal cases, including allegations of murder, attempt to murder, promoting communal disharmony, kidnapping, and crimes against women.
  • Out of the sitting MPs with serious criminal cases against them, nine face murder cases.
  • Educational Background, Age, and Gender: 73% of the MPs have graduate or higher educational qualifications, while only 15% of the sitting MPs are women.
  • State-wise Distribution: More than 50% of the MPs from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Himachal Pradesh face criminal charges.
  • Party-wise Distribution: Among major parties, the BJP and the Congress have the highest number of billionaire MPs.
  • Highest Declared Assets: 5% of the analyzed MPs are billionaires, with assets exceeding 100 crore.

Other Key Reasons Highlighted By ADR Earlier:

  • Electoral Bonds: The Supreme Court held that the Electoral Bonds Scheme was unconstitutional for violating the right to information of voters.
  • Registered Unrecognised Political Parties: According to a report by ADR, the number of registered unrecognized political parties has increased two-fold from 2010 to 2019.
  • Election Commissioners Appointment: ADR argues that the present practice of appointment of Election Commissioners by the Centre is violative of Articles 14 and Article 324 (2) and the basic features of the Constitution.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR):

– It is an apolitical and non-partisan non-profit organization in India that was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad.

– It focuses on corruption and criminalization in the political process, empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, etc.

Objectives:

– To improve governance and strengthen democracy through continuous work in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms.

Significances:

– It has published numerous reports on the criminal backgrounds, financial details, and other relevant information of candidates contesting in various elections.

A. These reports have been crucial in promoting transparency and accountability in Indian politics.

Issues of Criminalization of Politics

  • 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% 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 the 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.
  • Impact on Democracy: The presence of criminals in politics undermines the very essence of democracy. It erodes public trust in the political system and compromises the integrity of our institutions.
  • Moreover, it raises serious questions about the kind of representation citizens are receiving and the quality of governance being delivered.

Measures to Curb Criminalisation

  • 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 groups and, over the years, get themselves elected to local bodies, state assemblies, and the national Parliament.
  • Law Commission’s 179th report: It recommended an amendment to the Representation of People Act 1951, and suggested that 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 a copy of the FIR/complaint, and also furnish details of all assets.

The Legal Framework:

  • Representation of the People Act, 1951: It provides the basis for disqualifying a sitting legislator or a candidate on certain grounds.
  • However, there is no provision regulating appointments to offices within political parties.
  • Right to Information Act, 2005: Efforts have been made to bring political parties under the Right to Information regime to usher in transparency within political parties.

Related Supreme Court Judgement

  • In 2002: Every candidate contesting the election had to declare his criminal and financial records along with educational qualifications.
  • In 2005: 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 Supreme Court accepted the Law Commission’s 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 government started a scheme to establish 12 special courts for a year to fast-track the trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs.
  • In 2021: The political parties need 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 well as for not giving tickets to those without criminal antecedents.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court published some necessary mandates to avert the criminalization of politics as many lawsuits have been withdrawn against MPs and MLAs in the past.
Conclusion and Way Forward
  • The criminalization of politics in India is a grave issue that needs immediate attention. The involvement of criminals in politics not only undermines the democratic process but also hamper the development of the nation.
  • There is a need to fix the role of Political Parties that should be more transparent and accountable in their candidate selection process.
  • The Election Commission of India and other respective authorities need to take transparency measures about the Political Parties and their funding to the People of India so that they can make informed decisions while exercising their vote.
  • It is high time that stringent measures are taken to curb this menace and restore faith in the democratic system.

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