Who will stop criminal MPs? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 September 2018 05:27
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Can't have 36% of MPs/MLAs with serious cases contest polls

In 2004, Carnegie Endowment’s Milan Vaishnav’s When Crime Pays pointed out that as many as 12% of those elected to Parliament faced serious charges, ranging from kidnapping to murder. And, by 2014, this figure had risen to as high as 21%. And, as the research shows, in the last three national elections, a candidate with criminal charges had a nearly three times greater chance of winning than a candidate that had no criminal record. Not surprising then, that the Supreme Court should be petitioned to debar politicians from standing for an election once a court framed a charge-sheet against them—when the government gave the Supreme Court a reply in the matter, it said that a total of 1,765 MPs and MLAs, or 36% of parliamentarians/legislators, were facing criminal charges in 3,045 cases. It is true not every charge-sheet gets proven, but the fact that the court has framed the charges means that it is convinced there is at least a prima facie case that needs to be investigated; and till then, the person has to stand aside till the charge is proved to be wrong.

Given the electoral law does not allow for disqualification at the time of framing of charges, the Supreme Court has sought to fix this criminalisation by ensuring the voters know about this. So, it said, each candidate has to declare these charges in their election forms and in bold letters, at that. The candidate has to inform the party and the party is obligated to put this information on its website and publicise the matter widely, in large-circulation newspapers as well as the electronic media – this publicity, SC said, has to be done at least thrice after filing of the nomination papers.


Having provided this immediate relief in the sense of letting the electorate know whom it was voting for, the SC said “a time has come that the Parliament must make law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter into the political stream”. If prime minister Narendra Modi is serious about rooting out corruption, it is incumbent upon him to not just move such a law, but to also make sure it is passed and converted into legislation. Because, given that over a third of parliamentarians/legislators are involved, it is unlikely Parliament will pass this law with the same speed at which it does when it comes to raising MPs’ salaries. And, while it is undoubtedly true that some MPs/MLAs will be unfairly hit since many of the criminal cases filed can turn out to be fake/flimsy, the solution to this is not allowing the guilty to go free, but to fast-track justice through special courts; this will then ensure that accused law-makers are quickly cleared/convicted of all charges. If more than a third of law-makers face criminal cases, chances are the laws they will make will help criminals get away.


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