Advent of Criminals in Politics (The Hindu)
30/08/2021
Tags:

GS 2: Indian Polity

Context:

  • 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.

SC Observation:

  • 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.