New Delhi

Supreme Court to Check Why Politics Is Increasingly Criminalised
Supreme Court will also determine how the number of cases against politically influential criminals have been dropped by the Union and state governments in the past. (Photo: Reuters)


  • Supreme Court will scrutinise entry of criminals into politics and how their cases have been dropped in the past by the Union and state governments
  • According to Association for Democratic Reforms every third newly elected MP has a criminal record
  • Candidates with criminal cases have greater chances of winning elections than candidates with a clean record: Survey
  • 186 of all newly elected MPs have pending criminal cases against them
  • 2014 general elections has seen the highest number of politicians with criminal records

Though political parties, except the Left, can’t stop loving criminals due to their winnability factor, the Supreme Court has taken up the task of determining the reasons “why politics is increasingly criminalised” and the number of cases against politically influential criminals have been dropped by the Union and state governments in the past.

The court’s direction is unprecedented. So far it has pointed out rise in criminalisation of politics but it has refrained from examining the genesis of the malaise.

The occasion to inspect the tie-up between politically heavyweight criminals (also known as ‘Bahubalis’) and political parties arose when the Uttar Pradesh government filed a petition before the Supreme Court. The petition challenged a judgement by the Allahabad High Court, raising certain issues relating to prolonged trials of politicians that at times culminated in grant of bail for them to take part in elections.

Former Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra, who assisted the court in the matter, had culled out several issues for examination by judges Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana.

They had issued notices to the Union and state governments asking to lay down criteria for grant of sanctions to prosecute elected MLAs and MPs and for withdrawal of prosecution of “persons with political background”.

Top Court Steps In

Interestingly, in November the apex court will start to determine “methods by which criminals begin to dictate their wishes to politicians” and check their entry into politics. It would examine whether the prosecution agency could be separated from the executive’s control and how soon its recommendations for reforms in police administration could be enforced.

A report by the Law Commission had recommended a one year dead-line for the disposal of criminal cases against accused lawmakers but the Supreme Court then held that all accused persons are entitled to speedy trial under the Constitution and a new class of accused politicians can’t be created for expeditious dispensation.

Criminalisation of Politics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha last year, had made an appeal to all the MPs to rise above political considerations and made a joint appeal to the Chief Justice of India to ensure speedy trial of lawmakers who were facing all sorts of charges under the penal law or other provisions. But no headway has been made so far.

A survey last year had conclusively found that candidates charged with a crime have a 2:1 chance of winning the election over candidates with no criminal background.

Interestingly, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) notes that the chances of winning were higher for candidates with criminal cases, compared to the candidates with a clean record.

Political parties liberally and repeatedly hand out tickets to criminally charged candidates. 74 per cent of candidates with criminal background have re-contested elections in the last ten years.
— Law Commission

It has been held by the Supreme Court that,

...the slow motion becomes much slower motion when politically powerful or high and influential persons figure as accused… Due to such tactics, delays are thought to be directly related to low rates of convictions in the country.

When Parties Accept Corruption

An analysis of the 543 MPs by ADR shows that 186 (about 34 per cent) of the newly elected MPs have revealed in election affidavits that they have pending criminal cases against them. In the 2009 Lok Sabha, the figure was 158 (about 30 per cent) of the total MPs.

In the current Lok Sabha, 63 BJP MPs have serious criminal charges pending against them, while Congress has three candidates with criminal charges out of a total of 44. Similarly, AIADMK from Tamil Nadu has three out of 37 winners facing criminal charges. Proportionately, eight out of 18 Shiv Sena MPs and four out of 34 winners fielded by AITC have serious pending criminal charges.

Among the newly elected MPs, 112 have pending criminal charges against them, including murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping and crimes against women. ADR says nine MPs have murder cases against them, while another 17 face attempted murder cases. Similarly, there are two MPs who have cases related to crimes against women.

It has been found that the 2014 general election has seen the highest number of politicians with criminal records being elected to the Lok Sabha. Every third newly elected MP has a criminal record, ADR says.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist.)

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