special-benches-to-hear-cases-against-legislators

Context:

The Supreme Court has asked the Chief Justices of High Courts to head Special Benches and immediately hear long-pending criminal cases against sitting and former legislators.

Over 4,400 criminal trials have been held up, some for decades, because the powerful MPs and MLAs had approached the High Courts and got an interim stay. Some date back nearly 40 years. Most are stuck at the stage of framing of criminal charges. There are over 2,500 criminal cases against sitting legislators alone.

The Supreme Court asked the Chief Justices to list such cases immediately before their own respective Special Benches and review if the stay on the criminal trial needs to continue at all.

While the directions may have far-reaching consequences for curbing criminalization of politics, yet still a lot has to be done to make a cleaner electoral process in India.

Reasons of Criminalization of Politics:

  • Lack of Political Will: Majorly whatever progress made in curbing criminalization of politics has been through the initiative of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission.
  • Lack of Enforcement: Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, due to the lack of enforcement of laws and judgments. For example, blatant violation of Model Code of Conduct, as seen in almost all elections.
  • Narrow Self-interests: Publishing of the entire criminal history of candidates fielded by political parties may not be very effective, as a major chunk of voters tend to vote through a narrow prism of community interests like caste or religion.
  • Use of Muscle and Money Power: Candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.

Effect of Criminalization of Politics:

  • Against the Principle of Free and Fair Election: Using money and muscle power in elections, limits the choice of voters to elect a suitable candidate.
  • Affecting Good Governance: The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance.
  • Affecting Integrity of Public Servants: It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, which in turn increases corruption in society and affects the working of public servants.
  • Causes Social Disharmony: It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow and reduces people 's faith in democracy as a system of governance