With political parties in the past five years giving Lok Sabha election ticket to six persons and State election ticket to 27 persons who declared that they were charged with rape — and six MLAs with rape cases now actually representing people in State Assemblies — a demand has been raised that the practice of fielding people with criminal backgrounds be stopped forthwith.
It was in the backdrop of the outrage over Sunday’s gang-rape in Delhi and at a time when Parliament was seized of the matter, that National Election Watch (NEW) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) “looked at the background of our lawmakers [MPs and MLAs] with respect to rape cases and other crimes against women based on their self-sworn affidavits.”
The national coordinator for NEW and ADR Anil Bairwal; founder member and former IIM Ahmedabad professor Jagdeep Chhokar; and member and IIM Bangalore professor Trilochan Sastry said they “found that there are several lawmakers who have similar cases pending against them as per their last affidavit declaration to the Election Commission of India.” The group said that in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the political parties gave ticket to six persons who declared that they had been charged with rape. They included one each from the RPP, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and two Independents. During these polls, 34 other contestants declared that they had charges of crimes against women.
While Parliament is debating the issue, two of its members — one of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam from Tamil Nadu and the other of the All India Trinamool Congress from West Bengal — have also declared that they face charges, such as cruelty and intent to outrage a woman’s modesty.
The situation in the State elections is even worse.
As per the report of NEW and the ADR, “six MLAs have declared that they have charges of rape against them in their sworn affidavits submitted with the Election Commission of India at the time of their election. Of these six MLAs with declared rape cases, three are of the Samajwadi Party from Uttar Pradesh; and one each is of the Bahujan Samaj Party, from U.P., of the Bharatiya Janata Party from Gujarat; and of the Telugu Desam Party from Andhra Pradesh.
Of the 27 candidates who have rape cases against them and were yet given party ticket for State elections, 10 were from Uttar Pradesh and five from Bihar.
Apart from these, the group said, “36 MLAs have declared that they have other charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman” registered against them. Of these, six are from the Congress, five from the BJP, and three from the Samajwadi Party. Incidentally, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of such MLAs at eight; followed by Orissa and West Bengal with seven MLAs each.
The group said “by giving ticket to candidates who have been charged with crimes against women especially rape, political parties have been in a way abetting circumstances that lead to such events that they so easily but vehemently condemn in Parliament.”
It has thus demanded that “candidates with a criminal background should be debarred from contesting elections” and “cases against MPs and MLAs should be fast-tracked and decided in a time-bound manner.”