Why should we let politicians facing criminal charges contest elections?

Supreme Court’s directive, to set up special courts to deal with ever-growing list of criminal cases against politicians, must be implemented right away. If Narendra Modi government is averse to such a call then elected parliamentarians, legislators and former lawmakers facing such charges should be debarred from holding any office till such cases are finally settled.

Union government’s proposal that such courts should be set up by states does not hold water. States and other political parties may still be consulted before a decision was taken to set up these courts. At present, courts are hearing 13,500 cases of criminality, murder, rape, loot and arson against 1,581 politicians. Several of these extreme cases are three decades old and, yet, have not made any progress whatsoever.

Pending resolution of these cases, accused politicians from BJP to Congress, Left, RJD, JDU and several other parties continue to contest elections, get elected and hold office, making a mockery of the system.

There’s no logic in allowing people with criminal background or those facing conviction to get elected after having trampled with principles of natural justice.

Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Naveen Sinha will have to be supported in their bid to set up dedicated courts to deal with the politicians facing criminal charges.

Given the kind of work load handled by the 17,000 subordinate courts with each handling roughly 4,200 cases, it is next to impossible for making any progress on criminal cases against politicians who seem to know how to dodge the system.

Central government will have to fund setting up of these courts, provide infrastructure, appoint judicial officers of repute to expeditiously deal with criminals in public life. Criminals are worse than corrupt politicians who have resorted to loot, amassed wealth running into billions of dollars in the 70 years post independent Indian history.

If politicians’ innocence is proved in cases where trumped up charges are fostered on them by their rivals, then setting up these courts will provide them a chance to come clean quickly.

Interestingly enough, BJP tops the list with 93 of its legislators and members of Parliament facing criminal cases — of which, at least three of them are in Modi’s council of ministers. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD has all its four Parliament members facing criminal proceedings in various cases. Shiv Sena, National Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar and Congress led by Sonia Gandhi figure prominently with their legislators and Parliamentarians making it to criminals list.

Modi government must exercise its will to clean up public life by accepting the Election Commission’s recommendation on barring convict politicians from contesting for public office for lifetime. Current provision to bar convicts for six years from entering election fray will have to change for better to bring about the ‘transformational shift’ in Indian political scene.

Home minister Rajnath Singh will do good by piloting an amendment bill in the winter session to bar criminal convicts from electoral contests for life time. This will act as a deterrent for unruly elements in politics who throw their weight around.

Several recommendations in the past, made by Election Commission, to prevent criminals from participating in public life have had very little or no success given the intransigence with which political establishment has approached the issue.

Along with speedy trial of criminal cases, Election Commission will also have to work on issues like controlling money power in politics as well as monitor the conduct of both political parties, leaders and candidates in the run up, during and after elections.

Obviously, the logical extension of this campaign to cleanse politics will be enshrining the right to recall public representatives.