Politicians and special courts

Shiban  Khaibri
Are we really heading towards seeing politician – criminal nexus getting contained, if not eradicated fully and moving ahead in a big way towards electoral reforms and hence fighting the menace of corruption in our political set up? Are we going to provide a “Swatch Rajnitie Abhiyan” across the country? Are the ways and means to enter politics with the support of muscle power and money getting blocked ? Are Netas with taint now no longer to enjoy a long breathing time provided to them on account of lengthy judicial processes and gaining such time not used for political purposes including fighting elections and becoming Ministers etc? Perhaps, is our judicial system heading towards establishing the rule of “guilty till proved innocent” rather than the reverse, at least in dealing with our political class?
There is good news in this regard as Supreme Court of India has directed the Central Government to explore the possibilities of constituting of special courts to try cases of criminal nature involving politicians. Since the politicians , more or less , have been observed to be in a state of indecisiveness and not very eager to press for a suitable legislation in this most sensitive issue involving the elected representatives of the people running governments , the Apex Court has  stepped in . The proposed special courts  to exclusively hear cases against the  tainted law makers  must necessarily be aimed at decriminalizing politics as people feel shell shocked seeing some of their representatives involved in various acts of corruption  including  those of other crimes . Has this move of the Supreme Court made many a politician feel ill at ease since many instances having come from the judiciary which had the impact of reversing the criminalization of politics amply prove the point. Enough is enough and no more of it is to be tolerated.
We know that the biggest escape point was the provision in the Representation of the Peoples Act which was giving relief to such criminals having been convicted to escape disqualification which stands quashed. Normally it was taking more than two decades in deciding such cases taking advantage of which such politicians fight elections and enjoy multiple terms in office where they normally being not very much reformed because of the pendency of cases in courts  continue with their shoddy acts of omissions and commissions landing at their personal gains . The Supreme Court did not agree with the idea that constituting such special courts was in the domain of the State Governments. The apex court, in the issue under reference, was reviewing an old order to trial courts to speedily try case of heinous nature involving the law makers within a year. On the other hand, there has been a long pending demand from the Election Commission of India for a life ban on the convicted politicians from electoral politics. Needless to add , a PIL filed in this regard earlier was endorsed by the Election Commission as being “not adversarial” in seeking the verdict of the courts within a year in respect of trials of MPs and MLAs . Rather the EC has expressed regrets for such demand remaining pending for issuing directives from the Government. It has supported and endorsed a bar on convicted politicians for life from contesting polls .
The Election Commission referring to the existing proviso that a convicted law maker sentenced for a term of two years or more shall be disqualified for a period of six years after his or her release from the jail after completing the term, has supported the plea made in the PIL to reverse this provision as also for speedy time bound trial. Since under the present dispensation steps have been taken in this regard indirectly albeit demonetization and marching towards cash less system with more transparency, the measures are not supposed to bring required results so long as  speedy trials under special courts were not made possible. Enough water has flown down the river in the shape of rhetoric and pledge taking formalities that ” I will follow probity and the Rule of Law  in all walks of life , not take nor offer bribes ….   transparent manner ……….be accountable …….act in public interest….etc,” like things are meant for certain occasions, the spirit of which lasts for a small fraction of time and the political class has the feeling of déjà vu.
EC ‘s is credited with having a detailed proposal for electoral reforms including  decriminalization of politics, making cases of bribery a cognizable offence, prohibition of paid news, regulating strictly advertisements especially during 48 hours before the polls and the like. Have we a clear undisputed number of those tainted politicians which have so far been convicted? Could that be attributed to the fact of intention and implementation and a communication gap between different concerned agencies? Electoral arena need urgently to be purged of Bahubalis , professional poll hard nicks and warlords  to make the real sense of the election process percolate down to the last voter in the queue. Why have politicians not been serious enough both by actions and appearance in curbing criminalization in politics thus justifying the “judicial activism”? Or else they should account for as to why as many as nearly 1600 MPs and MLAs are facing criminal cases which is one third of our law makers. The hypothesis is that all crimes are “reported” and none is hidden or the complainant is “never too scared” to dare approach a Police station to file a case . The situation on the ground, otherwise, is well known.
The other facet of the issue is the Political parties giving tickets to candidates with criminal records and the worst tragedy is that people usually vote them to power as it has been seen that candidates with criminal background and money and muscle as accompanying corollary have been winning elections as compared to those who cannot afford the high cost of fighting elections. This Government is destined or mandated to do things which for decades none thought to even touch excepting employing selective secularism and appeasement to win elections. Therefore, this Government must respond very positively to the judicial interventions and adopt legislative measures to see “once a criminal (convicted) is always out of politics”.
One of the chief reasons to nurse corruption is hiding particulars of one’s assets and liabilities. It is unbelievable that as on Sept 30, 2017 as many as 69 MPs had not filed mandatory statement of assets and liabilities despite reminders from the Parliament secretariat.
These were to be filed within 90 days of their being elected to the Parliament. Congress Party topped the list with 10 followed by TRS 7,TMC and the BJP 4 each , AAP 3 and so on. It is tantamount to evading disclosure and an offence and how the law makers can have the liberty to evade? Consider the anxiety, the worry and the scare of law felt by ordinary citizens in paying income tax and not daring evade any money or commercial transaction and being eager to file the IT return within the stipulated time but why not the law makers? Do not churn Royalty and a smart privileged class out of those whom people elect as their servants, why should they  pay income tax only on salaries under the head” Income from other sources” and NOT on other payments, daily allowances and other allowances and perks? Let them project themselves as neat, clean, honest, and accountable in more transparent forms. Remember the PM says that he is the “Pradhan Sewak”, why should others in the august house and the state legislatures not feel as simple “Sewaks”? Criminalization of politics and politics of criminalization will only then become a story of the yore.