MICHAEL VAZ, MERCES
We Indians feel terribly ashamed that a sizeable portion of our elected representatives are tarred with a criminal background. A couple of months ago, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that 36 per cent of our lawmakers in Parliament and state legislative assemblies have a criminal background facing trials in 3,045 cases. It is an indicator of where such politicians whom we have elected with so much of aspirations would lead us to. We should note that an awakening to decriminalise Indian politics has not ascended only now. Way back in late 1990s the Election Commission as well as the Law Commission had presented reports on this sordid topic but the matter was put on cold storage by the different governments, and equally importantly, no party raised the issue for discussion, which only goes to demonstrate that criminalisation of legislators is not linked to just one or two parties but has swept across the entire political network in our country. It is an established fact that despite knowing the criminal antecedents of the candidates the political parties are fielding them without any guilt feeling for what matters to them is who wins seat for the party no matter by what means; may be employing muscle power or money power. As per the Representation of the People Act, an elected representative can be debarred from contesting elections only on being convicted. In our country the cases prolong in the courts for years and the accused continue to contest the elections. The apex court had asked the government to fast-track such cases involving politicians, conducting trial on a day-to-day basis so that any case is brought to its logical conclusion within a timeframe of one year; but nothing has moved in this regard. The matter is now being perused further and it is exhorted that the aforesaid Act may be suitably amended to disqualify persons from contesting elections who are facing serious criminal charges punishable with imprisonment for five years or more, once the charges are framed, even when the trial is pending. When the matter came up in the apex court the Attorney General voiced the government’s perpetual stand that judiciary should not venture into the legislative arena. This is tantamount to seeking total immunity acclaiming the supremacy of legislature and holding that its actions are unquestionable.