Advent of Criminals in Politics (The Hindu)
GS 2: Indian Polity
- The Supreme Court recently warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties for.
- Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of the government.
- The Supreme Court’s repeated appeals to legislators to amend the law to weed out the criminals amidst them had fallen on deaf ears.
- The court observed that it did not take political parties much time to flout its February 2020 judgment;
- Which directed them to prominently publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates in newspapers and on social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook.
- Eight months from the February judgment, in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly election in October-November last year.
- These parties had already subverted the verdict by either publishing inadequate information about their candidates’ criminal antecedents or by cleverly printing them in obscure newspapers.
- Bench stated that publishing the details of their candidates may even benefit the parties in the Indian scenario where political vendettas were a reality.
- It finally cited that the court hands were tied from taking any further action.
- It cannot transgress into the area reserved for the legislative arm of the State.
- It can only appeal to the conscience of the lawmakers.
- Various State governments have resorted to withdrawal of numerous criminal cases pending against MP/MLA by utilising the power vested under Section 321 CrPC.
- The court agreed to several suggestions given by amicus curiae i.e.;
- A freeze on the transfer of judicial officers trying criminal cases involving lawmakers.
The Supreme Court Direction:
- The court had directed political parties to publish the criminal history, if any, of their election candidates on the homepage of their websites.
- It should be under the caption ‘Candidates with criminal antecedents’ within 48 hours of their selection.
- In a series of directions to make the right of information of a voter “more effective and meaningful”;
- The court further ordered the Election Commission of India to launch a dedicated mobile app for voters to get details of the criminal history of the candidates at the touch of a button.
- The Commission should also form a separate cell to monitor political parties on their compliance with the court’s judgment.
- The court said any violation on the part of a political party, if brought to its attention by the Election Commission, would be viewed “very seriously”.
- It also directed that a criminal case against an MP or MLA can be withdrawn only after getting the consent of the State High Court concerned.
- No prosecution against a sitting or former MP/MLA shall be withdrawn without the leave of the High Court.
- The power under Section 321 CrPC is a responsibility which is to be utilised in public interest.
- It cannot be used for extraneous and political considerations.
- This power is required to be utilised with utmost good faith to serve the larger public interest.
- The court mulled the formation of a Special Bench to monitor the progress of investigation and trial of criminal cases involving politicians.
- To ensure expeditious disposal of pending cases;
- It is necessary for this court to direct the officers presiding over Special Courts or CBI Courts involving prosecution of MPs or MLAs to continue in their present posts until further orders.
- This direction, barring transfer of Judicial Officers, will be subject to their superannuation or death.
- Adopt video conferencing facilities to examine witnesses and for the release of funds to establish and improve virtual court facilities.
- The Bench gave the Centre a last opportunity to submit detailed reports on the cases registered by CBI, ED and other central agencies against MPs and MLAs.
- These cases range from corruption to money laundering.