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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid