February 16, 2020

Decriminalisation of public representation

The Supreme Court after a long wait has come down heavily on the political parties tending to encourage election of politicians from criminal backgrounds to the state assemblies and parliament. Ironically 233 MPs are facing criminal charges even in the present Lok Sabha the highest law making body of the country having a total strength of 539 MPs and majority of the MPs facing criminal charges belong to BJP the ruling party at the centre. Shocking it is that 43% of the MPs in the house of the directly elected representatives of the biggest democracy of the world are facing criminal charges. The Supreme Court has done well to pass on strictures against the political parties for encouraging the election of politicians of criminal backgrounds to parliament and state assemblies. The decision of the Supreme Court is obviously aimed at containing the increasing trends of the election of politicians of criminal backgrounds to parliament and state assemblies. Even naives can understand that politicians of criminal background overstepping limits and boundaries in misusing their positions for illegal cover ups is not a completely ruled out possibility. As the political parties are to be blamed for the choice of candidates in lok sabha and as well as assembly elections, the Supreme Court very rightly passed on strictures against political parties with the intent of reducing the increasing trend of the election of politicians of criminal backgrounds to parliament and state assemblies. The top court asking political parties to put in public domain the criminal cases their candidates face and justify their choice over others leaves little scope for political parties to evade unexplained queries as the Supreme Court directions are now enforceable under Article 142 of the Constitution empowering the court to demand the production of documents, and failure to do so could lead to contempt. The Supreme Court judgment would by all standards of understandabilities bring transparency in the process of elections.
While the Election Commission had failed to fulfill its institutional, constitutional and legal duty and the political parties failed to take care of the public concerns on political morality in public life, the Supreme Court has acted in the large public to address a bigger public concern.
In fact the election commission should have enforced the restrictions on political parties in naming politicians of criminal backgrounds as their candidates for lok sabha or assembly elections. The quiescent approach of the election commission over the decriminalization of politics has in fact led to the Supreme Court judgment. An election is an issue to be regulated by the election and law takes its own course when election commission fails to discharge its constitutional and institutional duties. The suitability of candidates is not a discretionary right of political parties the justification required by the Supreme Court would by all standards of understandabilities raise the standards of political morality in public life. While the Election Commission had failed to fulfill its institutional, constitutional and legal duty and the political parties failed to take care of the public concerns on political morality in public life, the Supreme Court has acted in the large public to address a bigger public concern.

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