Media outlets express concerns about SC judgment on disqualification of politicians facing criminal charges

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left the matter of disqualification of politicians carrying criminal charges against them to the Parliament, saying that the court cannot add to the grounds of disqualification. However, the apex court handed out directions for curbing criminalisation of politics, including asking candidates contesting elections to declare their criminal antecedents.

File image of the Supreme Court of India. AP

File image of the Supreme Court of India. AP

The court also directed the Parliament to make a law to ensure that candidates with criminal records don’t enter public life and take part in lawmaking.

Media outlets across the country took to express their views on the apex court's decision and discuss the realistic possibility of successfully implementing it.

The Hindustan Times argued that the court was correct in deferring to Parliament’s authority over this issue. However, the paper noted the irony that the court has asked a body comprising some of the country’s foremost lawbreakers to make the very laws which would regulate their behaviour. It said that the chances of success are quite low without a combination of sustained social pressure and intense judicial scrutiny.

Underscoring the opinion that implementing the apex court's ruling may be difficult, The Times of India said that where the court is looking to curb criminalisation in politics, political parties are, in fact, recruiting candidates with criminal associations to contest elections, because such candidates have a wealth advantage that gives them a leg up in financing — and winning — increasingly competitive elections.

The Indian Express said that the Representation of the People Act (RPA) states that an individual punished with a jail term of more than two years cannot stand in an election for six years after the jail term has ended. The paper then pointed out the fact that cases drag on in courts for years, which makes this provision virtually ineffective. It even cited a 2014 report of the Law Commission, which pointed out that “disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation of politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions.”

An affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court in March by the Centre also testifies to the shortcomings of the RPA’s disqualification clause: There are more than 3,800 criminal cases against 1,765 MPs and MLAs across the country, of which 3,045 cases are pending, the affidavit noted.

The Times of India added that qualifying at the inconclusive stage of framing charges will lead to bias and political witch hunts. Referring to the proposed suggestions as "half-baked",  the paper said that disqualifying those charged by courts as sought by the petitioners is not the answer. Instead, fast-tracking cases against politicians is the best solution, according to the report. Specifically, fast-tracking the serious cases to conviction, acquittal, discharge or closure will clean up the Augean stables, The Times of India said.


Updated Date: Sep 26, 2018 16:43 PM

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