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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More