News / Asia

India’s Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way For Cleaning up Politics

A view of the Indian Supreme Court building in New Delhi, Dec.7, 2010.
A view of the Indian Supreme Court building in New Delhi, Dec.7, 2010.
Anjana Pasricha
A ruling by India’s Supreme Court barring legislators who have been convicted of a serious crime from retaining office is expected to clean up politics in the world’s largest democracy.  Nearly one third of Indian legislators face a range of criminal charges.

In 2008, when India’s Congress-led government faced a close confidence vote, five legislators were temporarily freed from jail to participate.  Although convicted for crimes ranging from extortion to murder and kidnapping, they retained their parliamentary seats because they could continue in office pending appeals to higher courts.

But that is to change.  The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that future lawmakers are to lose their seats if they are convicted of a serious crime.  They will also be barred from contesting elections if they have been sentenced to at least two years in jail.

The ruling is being hailed as a major step in cleaning up Indian politics, where nearly one third of the members of parliament and state legislatures are charged with criminal cases.

It is widely accepted that criminals and strongmen, with wealth to fund election campaigns, have found a berth in virtually all political parties.

Anil Bairwal of the Association of Democratic Reforms says the problem snowballed as parties chose to field candidates guaranteed to deliver votes.
 
“Our political parties, they have chosen to give tickets to people on the basis of “winnability” factor.  And the two main ways for them to win elections:  one is muscle power and other is money power.  Using muscle power they are able to round up people and threaten them to get votes.  That is why they started getting these type of candidates.  Over a period of time this issue has become too large," said Bairwal.
 
In the present parliament, 162 of 543 members face criminal charges, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has 42 MP’s charged with crimes, the ruling Congress Party, 41.

And in a country with a slow justice system, where cases and appeals often drag on for decades, such candidates continue to fight successive elections.  
     
George Mathews with the Institute of Social Science in New Delhi says that has led to a degeneration of India’s vibrant democracy.  
     
“A system, and a thinking, and a culture, which was prevailing for the last 65 years, can you overnight change it with one verdict?  No. This is the first step. There are several other steps to follow.  This has to be accepted by all political parties as a culture, that this is something we will implement so that only men and women with integrity will enter public life," said Mathews.

Political parties have reacted guardedly to the ruling. The ruling Congress Party says it will consult other parties on the course of action regarding the verdict.  The BJP said any step to purify and strengthen the political system is welcome.

Anil Bairwal hopes that practical considerations will prompt political parties to weed out candidates with a criminal record.

“Now political parties will have to think twice about giving tickets to tainted candidates because they will have to worry that if they are convicted by a court, they will lose their seat and that will bring down their number," said Bairwal.

Civil society groups say they will keep a close eye on political parties as they nominate candidates for national elections scheduled to be held in 2014.  

The parties say any real effort at cleaning up politics can only come if there are more transparent ways to raise money to contest elections in a country where corporate funding is outlawed.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anil Khandelwal from: Gurgaon
July 14, 2013 6:57 AM
When there was no hue & cry among politicians towards coming
of criminals to Parliament & legislative assemblies for so many years But now in absence of long pending electoral reforms,if Supreme Court have given rulings,then why hue & cry. We must watch its implementation for two general elections and
see what kind of sky falls. If we see there is some problem, then some points may be changed in the ruling. We do not foresee any problem. Since the ruling is for noble cause,so we should proceed in the direction of its implementation rather than involve in petty and hypothetical discussion. Its result will prove its worth.

by: Ved Gupta from: USA
July 12, 2013 4:46 PM
Fast track court should be established to expedite the appealed cases to block the loopholes.

by: hanmi reddy from: hyderabad
July 11, 2013 5:34 PM
It will be misused by those in power.

by: vkn128 from: India
July 11, 2013 2:19 PM
In real life " Good People abide by the law ....Bad one go around it ..."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs