Recently the Supreme Court has ruled that if any politician is taken into custody by the law, that person will be removed from their post. This holds true for MPs, MLAs and MLCs. The ruling also stated that if any person is in custody when nominations are being filed, they are not eligible to contest the elections. Finally, no person can contest any election if they are in prison.
What a relief.
Indian politics has been getting increasingly more and more criminalised. The kinds of crimes that the politicians have been accused of include murder, extortion, intimidation, fraud, cheating, abduction and every possible crime that is heinous. Politics was becoming a refuge for criminals – because once elected, they became untouchable by law. Their cases got pushed into endless loops.
Having both, money and muscle power, criminals had no problem getting a ticket from established political parties. With might (and money) being right, we have had the ignominy of having criminals being given tickets by all parties – and the voter has had to choose one of the criminals as their representative.
Sister agencies, Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch have collated data from around the country and done an analysis of sitting MPs and MLAs with self-declared criminal cases. They have also analysed the percentage of MPs and MLAs with self-declared criminal cases in each part. Interestingly 30% (162 out of the 543 Lok Sabha MP’s) have declared serious criminal cases against them. Similarly 1258 out of the 4032 sitting MLA’s from all states assemblies have declared serious criminal cases against themselves. The numbers speak for themselves.
Sadly, this landmark ruling from the Supreme Court rests on an interpretation of the rules for electors (not candidates). A person cannot vote if they are in prison. The Supreme Court expanded this rule and interpreted it to include candidates contesting elections. For a person to be eligible to contest an election, they must be an elector therefore if you are not eligible to vote, you are not eligible to contest. It is sad indeed that a rule as essential as this one has to find such a roundabout route.
Society is constantly evolving. The laws written decades ago may not have conceived the way things have panned out are as they are unfolding. Surely then there should be an easier method to make appropriate laws to deal with the way things are. This ruling could have been introduced as a law in the ‘80s or ‘90s when the rots had started running deep.
Even this ruling by no means is watertight. One obvious loophole already being discussed is that if the candidate is not in police custody at the time of nomination, they can still file their papers. This means that it is possible that someone out on bail can go and file their papers. This loophole can possibly grow to be the bane of the new law and can probably even completely de-fang the law.
Despite this (and all the other loopholes that the politicians are sure to find) this is certainly a step in the right direction. This is not the most fool-proof law or ruling and it is certainly not the best way to have brought in such an important decision but this is a straw that we, the voters can clutch on to.