Last fortnight, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict to cleanse our polity. There have been repeated demands that a person, who has been charge-sheeted by a court of law for grave offences involving moral turpitude, should be ineligible to stand for election. Here it is worth mentioning that this judgment has come after more than 65 years of Indian Independence, owing to inaction of the executive and the legislature to clean up or to reform our political system per se. At least, this judgment will force other democratic organs for a better legislation, which is a paramount in this era, when lack of faith in democracy, especially in the legislature and the executive is quite evident. But, here it can be pointed out that this verdict may turn out to be a double-edged sword. While, it can be used to root out evil practices from politics, at the same time, it may be used to settle one’s personal scores from one’s opponents. It is a common knowledge in India that when a party comes to power, it can resort to all means—foul and fair—in order to bring disrepute to its opponents. Hence, it cannot be gainsaid that this verdict may be used for wrong reasons, i.e. the party in power will get charges framed against opposition politicians and hold them in custody just to get them out of its way in an election. Furthermore, the ruling parties and the politicians in power may try to prevent rivals from contesting an election by asking the police to file a case and effect arrest. Under this tight-spot situation, the government in power may enjoy a pre-emptive right to haul the rule undisturbed, until the by-elections are held to fill vacancies due to any debarment. If this happens, it will kill the democracy and the essence of the Constitution. Thus, any existing and future legal cases against any politicians should be completed and action taken within six months of filing charges without any legal drag, as India needs a complete change in the system of governance.
I concur with the essence of the Supreme Court’s decision to bar a convict from contesting an election to legislative bodies, which is very apt and must be welcomed. For, it is well-known that how easily criminals get elected and make their way to the legislative bodies. It is a chronic disease and needs urgent remedy. According to media reports, there are about 1,460 MPs and MLAs in India with a criminal background (that is 30 per cent of lawmakers). No wonder, politicians caught with their pants down on various scandals almost never pay the price for their misdeeds and no surprise, the political parties are maintaining a studied silence over this verdict. They protect each other. How can there be the rule of law and good governance, when the character of such a vast percentage of those, who make the laws and govern, is so dubious? I think the court is right in its decision. At the same time, I don’t dismiss the concerns—it may make a sense to categorise the charges and nature of crimes. Here, it cannot be denied the fact that most of the people who fought against the Emergency would not have had a chance to fight the elections, let alone winning and forming the government to remove the Emergency. Also, any ill-advised person can institute a fake case and doom the rights of a prospective candidate. Can it be said that in the name of taking actions to cleanse the politics, which is readily welcomed by media, intellectuals various organisations, etc, the judiciary is slowly pushing the country to a situation similar to one prevailing in Pakistan, where the military has used the mesmerism of India-hate feeling to woo the people, and has taken the present dominant role in decision-making process? If this is so, then we will have to implement checks and balances, which are the lifeline of sustaining democracy. But the present thin-majority status of the government seems to be exploited by everyone at the cost of democracy. Many may not accept this view until they see the country placed in irretrievable anarchy. However, those charged with serious crimes should be asked to step down. But mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that politicians from opposition parties are not thrown in jail during election time under questionable charges. If governments fall, so be it. Only if we cleanse the political landscape, those with great abilities and character will step in to lead the nation. Elections have become a tool to resort to blackmail of destabilisation of governments. All this could have been stopped, if we were to be given an opportunity to elect right candidates with vision, respect for democracy and who are not corrupt. Viewed thus, the verdict gives the right direction that will benefit even political parties in long run.