Criminalisation of politics

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The apex Court of the country has termed criminalisation of politics as a “malignancy” to fight which, the nation was eagerly waiting for a legislation as the “society has legitimate expectations to be governed by proper constitutional governance.” The apex Court felt that the citizens could not be compelled to stand as “silent, deaf and mute spectators” to corruption by projecting themselves as helpless. A five judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, refused to go beyond its “judicial realm” in debarring politicians facing serious criminal charges from contesting polls and opined the “onerous task” to be handled by the Parliament by making a suitable law to bar those facing trial for heinous and grievous offences from contesting elections. The question, however, is whether the “termite” to the citadel of democracy, the criminalisation of politics would be treated with forceful deterrent by arriving at a universal consensus irrespective of political affiliations by the members of the Parliament in legislating on it by enacting a strong law. The Court, however, had observed that criminalisation of politics was a bitter manifest truth besides there was national thinking to clean up politics and that the legislature would meet the challenge by enacting a law. Going by the historic ruling by the court, prima facie it wanted those who were supposed and mandated to clean up the system to do it themselves to cleanse the ways of politics and politicking. However, since it takes more than required time in deciding cases of criminal nature due to host of reasons, the benefit of that time could be utilised by the tainted politicians to contest and get elected for more than one term and if ultimately one was convicted, what would the credentials of the elected law maker for the intervening period be treated as except he or she was proved by the Court. Perhaps and most likely, to address such an eventuality, the Court directed that pending criminal cases have to be stated in bold letters in the form provided by the Election Commission. It also directed the candidate and the political party concerned to issue a declaration in widely circulated news papers in the locality and in electronic media about his or her antecedents. If perused between the lines, the Supreme Court has recognised the supreme democratic power of the people to vote for only the honest, the deserving and the ones, sans any sort of taint as the antecedents of the contesting candidates would henceforth be prominently made available. Under the present law, politicians stand immediately disqualified and candidates barred from contesting elections if convicted for a crime and sentenced to a jail term of two years or above under the Representation of Peoples Act. Criminalisation of politics and politics of criminalisation have been the bane of the erosion of finest tenets of our democratic system and both these have been getting sustenance and oxygen from various alibi of caste, region, religion, language, manufactured political conspiracy etc. The situation has worsened for the last two and a half decades. It has been noticed how tainted politicians against whom scores of criminal cases were pending in different courts of the country became Union Ministers taking the benefit of the absence of a law to refrain such politicians from contesting any elections until and unless proved innocent by the courts. We have helplessly observed in many cases how even those under judicial custody, who contested elections from their prisons thus making a mockery of morality and ethics besides that of democracy. The PIL, which the apex Court was hearing regarding the issue under reference, wanted the court take cognizance of all those candidates against whom charge sheets were filed to bar them from contesting elections. Agreed, a charge sheet is built and filed by the police in a court which has to undergo the usual test of proofs since being one sided version – that of the police but to term that wholly motivated would be tantamount to giving more than required benefit of doubt to the accused politician. It would be safe and pointed conclusion to arrive at that it is the voter, now, who has assumed more importance than never before as it would be amply made known to one what a particular candidate stood in terms of honesty, integrity and how much its slate had all along been clean. The voter shall be the deciding entity.