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Mains Answer Writing

7-March-2024

Q1) While decriminalization of politics is crucial, it is equally important to balance it with principles of justice, fairness, and the presumption of innocence to ensure the elimination of any doubt regarding political persecution of the opposition. In this perspective, discuss the necessity of decriminalization of politics and the challenges therein. Also assess the role of judiciary in furthering the cause of clean politics.

(250 Words/15 Marks)

ANSWER

Criminalization of politics is the increasing prevalence of elected representatives in legislatures with criminal antecedents.

The necessity of decriminalization of politics can be seen from:

  1. Elected representatives in a representative democracy hold the position of trust, therefore decriminalization of politics is a necessity to make the body politic just, fair, and transparent.
  2. The welfare credentials of the country can be justified only in an environment of clean politics.

E.g., building robust social infrastructure; uplifting people out from poverty etc.

  1. Breaking the illicit nexus between politicians and crony capitalists, ensuring corruption free governance.

E.g., incidents of governance capture can be minimized by cleaning the politics.

  1. Making the arena of elections more democratic, equitable, and inclusive.

E.g., checking the role of money and muscle power will attract more honest and ethical people towards politics.

  1. The nature and character of politics has a direct corelation with the governance of the country.

E.g., clean politics will translate to citizen centric governance and efficient service delivery at the cutting-edge level.

  1. Cleansing the politics will enable the country in realizing the global potential of becoming “vishwaguru.”

E.g., producing statesman politicians.

 

Though cleansing the politics is important, the same faces following challenges:

  1. Lack of political will is the biggest impediment in cleansing the political system.

E.g., use of ordinances to undermine judiciary’s efforts to clean the politics in the past.

  1. Critics allege that, while political supporters are sheltered even against the law, investigative agencies like ED and CBI is used against political opponents for political exigencies, creating a perception of political persecution.

E.g., misuse of legal provisions to supress oppositions.

  1. Deep entrenched role of money and muscle power in the politics.

E.g., prevalence of “Bahubali” leaders in regional politics.

  1. As per experts, presence of high number of representatives facing criminal charges, undermines efforts for decriminalization of politics.

E.g., in the current (17th) Lok Sabha, 43% members face criminal charges.

  1. The close interface between the society and politics makes societal reforms a pre-condition for political reforms.

E.g., society provides ready fodder for caste/religion-based mobilization; freebies are valued over governance.

 

The role of judiciary in cleansing politics can be seen as:

  1. In Lily Thomas case, the SC struck down the section 8(4) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, as ultra vires to the constitution; it effectively checked the convicted legislator from retaining their seat by filing an appeal within 3 months.
  2. SC in Union of India vs ADR (2002) mandated the disclosure of information regarding criminal cases, educational qualification and personal asset of candidates.
  3. The SC has directed the political parties to cite reasons for fielding a candidate with criminal antecedents, saying that winnability cannot be the sole criteria.
  4. Supreme court, in 1997, directed the High Courts to not suspend the convictions of legislators convicted under the Prevention of corruption Act, 1988.
  5. In Ramesh Dalal vs UoI (2005) case, SC pronounced that even the sitting legislators can be disqualified from contesting elections, if convicted for not less that two years of imprisonment.
  6. SC has asked centre to set up fast track courts to try politicians facing criminal cases and dispose cases within 1year.

 

Cleansing the politics is a shared responsibility of the all the three branches of the government. To this end, bringing political parties under RTI Act; exploring the possibilities of state funding of elections; strengthening ECI by suitable amendments to RPA, 1951 etc. are desirable in tandem with addressing the issues of perception.

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