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Criminalization of Politics in India

By: Davendra Sharma

In a democracy, the elected representatives are responsible for governing the country; therefore, it is of utmost importance, that the people who enter the field of politics have a clean image and high moral character. However, the current trends reflect otherwise. As per a report prepared by ADR India, 15% of the candidates contesting last Lok Sabha elections had criminal cases pending against them. Out of these 608 candidates have criminal cases of serious nature. These candidates were fielded by almost all the major political parties and a large number of such candidates contested as independents as well. The above said report also states out of 543 elected candidates 162 have criminal cases pending against them. Entry of such people in our legislature is a cause of grave concern and needs serious consideration. This criminalization of politics is a result of nexus between criminals and the politicians. However, people of this country will also have to share some responsibility for electing these people. While on one hand this destroys the sanctity of our political institutions on the other it emboldens the criminals to carry on their activities without any fear of the law enforcement agencies.
It is usually said that people vote for criminals out of fear. The factor might have some impact in small elections like local bodies’ election, but it is nearly impossible to terrorize the electorate of a state assembly or parliamentary constituency. This is evident from the fact that mafia dons who have tried to gain political power independent of the established political parties, have either completely failed or have been severely restricted. Increased importance of criminals in the political arena is due to a combination of several factors which have social, political and legal dimensions.

Social aspects related to Criminalization of politics
1. 2. Since ancient times, Indian society has been torn by the differences of caste and creed. This has resulted in fragmentation of the society. These differences were also reflected in the world of crime. In earlier periods, the functioning of dacoits of Chambal ravine showed similar patterns where gangs were formed on caste basis. These were stated to have sizeable support from their respective communities. An example of this is the erection of a temple in the honour of Dacoit Man Singh in his native village as well as the support some other dacoits like Phoolan Devi 3. have got from their communities. A number of present day mafia dons have retained the casteist nature of their functioning. However, this has been possible only in rural areas where the differences on the basis of caste and creed are still strong. In urban areas, efforts of mafia dons to enter political world have not received much public support. Political outfits, floated by dons like Haji Mastan and more recently Arun Gawli have hardly made any impact on political scenario of the country. 4. However, in rural areas where the differences of caste and creed are still strong, feuds and rivalries exist between various social groups. This gives the local don a chance of presenting himself as a protector of the community. On the other hand the establishment has not been able to instill confidence among people at large. The administrative and judicial processes are long, expensive and cumbersome which the common man wants to


mere selection of the candidate not being sufficient.e. 6. it was to be provided that only those cases which were filed prior to six months before an election alone would lead to . As a result political parties started giving tickets to such candidates. At this stage. This resulted in the increased clout for criminals who now understood that instead of supporting a politician to get elected. such a candidate is denied ticket by any major political party. However the limitations of this law are evident in number of tainted candidates contesting elections. they carried their concept of social 2. 5. Lengthy legal procedures delay the conviction only to the advantage of the criminal. the political fraternity realized that differences of caste and creed among the people could be utilized for electoral gains. a nexus. This increases the bargaining power of the tainted candidate vis-à-vis the political party. 2. As a precaution against motivated cases by the ruling party. provided charges have been framed against him by the competent court. the support can lead to a victory in elections. Such people had always wanted the support of the ruling establishment as it would bring them acceptability as well as safety from the law. Whenever. 8. 5. The menace has now increased to such an extent that more than 25% of candidates fielded by both the national parties i. In the initial stages. proving of charges and hence conviction becomes difficult. responsibility into the arena of politics. the criminal was subservient to the politician. However. Congress as well as BJP have criminal cases pending against them. With the growth of time. 1951 bars a convicted person from contesting elections. Legal Aspects 1. Section 8 of the People’s Representation Act. it was more beneficial to get themselves elected as this would give them a direct control over administration. 4. However. Leaders participating in freedom movement also had a vision of the society they wanted the country to have. These leaders also realized their social responsibility and when they acquired political leadership. 4. System of forming a political party and contesting elections is extremely easy in India which has led to mushrooming of parties and independents. 7. These are favorable situations for development of an extra legal authority and wherever possible mafia dons have filled the slot posing themselves as protector of their communities and tormentor of the rivals. The Election Commission has suggested that the People’s Representation Act should be amended to provide that any person who is accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more should be disqualified from contesting election even when trial is pending. with the change of generation. 3. slowly.avoid. the politician became more and more distant from the public and hence relied more and more on the divisive politics and hence required the services of the local don more often. This grants them acceptability and support from their community and if the community is large enough in numbers. support from the influential persons of the community including the ‘strongman’ was also required to win the support of the community. 3. Thus. Political aspects related to Criminalization of Politics 1. Criminals have taken advantage of this system. favorable to both was created. Period of freedom movement was also a period of social churning. Thus started the practice of selecting electoral candidates on basis of dominant community of the constituency. As the tainted candidate is usually quite resourceful and is in a position to influence the establishment. he would threaten to either float his political outfit or contest as an independent candidate. a new breed of politicians came up which gave up the concept of social responsibility and concentrated on winning elections. This provided a foothold to the local don who could garner some votes and also provide muscle power as well as financial resources.

it would be prudent if the politcal parties refrain from taking a call on the innocence of such candidates and give a thought to their social responsibilites. on the other hand it will result in speedy trial of tainted candidates. The logic is correct from an individualistic point of view. 2. 5. It was also suggested that persons found guilty by a Commission of Enquiry should also stand disqualified from contesting elections. be able to gain confidence of the people of the country. . Political parties also need to understand that their compromising with principles for petty electoral gains is not in the larger interest of the country. The parties need to develop a consensus about not fielding such candidates. Amendments suggested by the Election Commission in People’s Representation Act should be implemented. Administration in general and police administration in particular should develop a people friendly approach and image so that people develop confidence towards the legal institutions. 6. This brings in degeneration of moral values in the society. Justice Deleivery system should be strengthened so as to provide speedy justice. This will lead to an objective assessment of the candidates and will remove the tainted candidates from the political scene. This would restrict the bargaining power of the tainted candidates. but it is expected that a political party would give precedence to the larger public interest. 4. Social organizations should try to remove feeling of rivalry between groups.disqualification as proposed. The immunity and success of these people lures more and more youngsters to follow in their footsteps. Solutions for Criminalization of Politics 1. The answer would be no. This nexus has thrived on the fragmentation of the society. This argument is based on the accepted legal principle that every man is innocent till proved guilty. 3.  Stand of political parties: Politicians and political parties take a stand that that the charges are politically motivated. Impact of criminalization     A criminal is on the wrong side of the law and hence cannot be expected to make positive contributions to the legislative or administrative process It brings a sense of futility among the administration particularly the police administration and demoralizes them Presence of tainted candidates in the law making institutions creates embarrassment for the country as well as the people Rise of a criminal to high levels of powers has an adverse effect on the society. will a politician having criminal case pending against him. They also contend that the candidate fielded by them has not been proved guilty. The suggestions are yet to be accepted. The question is. While on one hand this will increase the faith of the people in the system. Therefore. There should be strict control on formation of political parties and independent candidates.