Politics and crime in India are so intimately knotted that the phrase ‘politicians with no criminal records’ might come across as an oxymoron. During 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its list of 184 candidates out of contenders among which 35( 19 per cent) of the total had declared criminal cases against themselves in 2014, according to myna.info, a website that analyses the self-sworn affidavits of the candidates who are in the fray in the Lok Sabha polls. These 35 BJP candidates with criminal records are also among the 78 candidates who have been re-nominated during this Lok Sabha as well. News18.com could not analyse other 106 candidates because they haven’t yet filed their nomination papers along with self-sworn affidavits that show the number of criminal cases registered against a candidate, if any.
The Apex court says that they must also explain why the candidates were chosen. Now the Supreme Court has put political parties on a tight leash by ordering them to publish the criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls along with reasons that goaded them to choose those with criminal antecedents over decent people within 48 hours of the selection of the candidates. A Bench led by Justices Rohinton F. Nariman ordered political parties to publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates in local and national newspapers and on their social media handles. Following this, the parties would have to file compliance reports with the Election Commission of India (ECI) or face contempt action. The judgement signified the court’s alarm over the unimpeded rise in the accommodation of criminals often facing heinous charges like rape and murder, in the political arena. It is based on a proposition made by the ECI to ask parties not to give tickets to persons with criminal antecedents for contesting elections.
The ECI has said that 46 per cent of members of Parliament have criminal records. The Supreme Court’s long strings of judgements against criminalisation of politics have hardly scratched the surface of the deep rot. Justice Nariman, speaking for the Bench in the judgment, said a move to steer politics away from the denizens of the criminal world would definitely serve national and public interest.
Thursday’s verdict is sourced from a contempt petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who sought action against the authorities and parties for not complying fully with a September 2018 judgement by a Constitution Bench that had directed parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their election candidates.
The 2018 judgement had urged Parliament to bring a “strong law” to cleanse parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes. Two years ago, a five-judge Bench led by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had concluded that rapid criminalisation of politics could not be stopped by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by “cleansing” political parties. It had even then issued guidelines, including that both the candidate and the party should declare the criminal antecedents of the former in widely circulated newspapers.
The number of candidates with criminal cases registered against them, however, is expected to rise once the remaining 106 new candidates file their nominations. According to the myneta.info, the candidate who had the highest number of criminal cases filed against him till 2014 was Hansraj Gangaram Ahir from Maharashtra’s Chandrapur constituency. There were a total of 11 criminal cases filed against him till the last Lok Sabha elections. Ahir is a member of the 16th Lok Sabha and currently serves as the MoS Home Affairs. Following him is Pratap Sarangi from Odisha’s Balasore. Sarangi had ten criminal cases filed against him. Interestingly, among other BJP candidates with criminal charges, the current Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari, also features in the list. Gadkari, till 2014, had five criminal cases filed against him. Other notable mention is Sakshi Maharaj. He had thirty four criminal cases filed against him till 2014.
In 2014, Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR), analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 542 of 543 winners in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and found that BJP led the chart with as many as 98 winning candidates (35 per cent) out of total 282 who back then were facing criminal charges. Eight out of a total of 44 candidates of the Congress were facing criminal charges. The study also found that a candidate with a criminal background was almost twice more likely to win than a candidate with no criminal background. The winning chances of a candidate with criminal background were 13 per cent while those of a candidate with no criminal background were 5 per cent. Out of the 539 winners analysed in Lok Sabha 2019, 233 MPs had declared criminal cases against themselves. This is an increase of 44 per cent in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009. The 17th Lok Sabha will have close to half of its new MPs with declared criminal cases.
The chances of winning for a candidate with declared criminal cases in the Lok Sabha 2019 are 15.5 per cent whereas for a candidate with a clean background is 4.7 per cent. This is due to the fact that the 17th Lok Sabha will have close to half of its new Members of Parliament (MPs) with declared criminal cases.
Congress MP Dean Kuriakose from Idukki constituency in Kerala has declared 204 criminal cases against himself. These include cases related to committing culpable homicide, house tresspass, robbery, criminal intimidation, etc. As per the self-sworn affidavits submitted by the candidates at the time of filing nominations, the new Lok Sabha has surpassed the previous two in electing MPs with criminal records.
Out of the 542 MPs analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2014, 185 (34 per cent) winners had declared criminal cases against themselves while out of 543 winners analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2009, 162 (30 per cent) had declared criminal cases against themselves. This time its close to half. Out of the 539 winners analysed in Lok Sabha elections 2019, 233 (43 per cent) MPs have declared criminal cases against themselves.
The figure is far more alarming when it comes to serious criminal cases. Around 159 (29 per cent) winners this time have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc.
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