Millennium Post

Law breakers as law makers? Bad idea!

Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal has announced that his government is coming up with an Act to debar criminals from contesting elections. There is a lot of confusion about the definition of a criminal, because a common man and an expert have different views about criminals. A common man knows that who are criminals and who are not, but a legal expert may say that a person cannot be called a criminal until the final court of justice, i.e., Supreme Court, has convicted him for the crime. That is why; there is a viewpoint, particularly in our political circles that unless a person has been pronounced guilty by the ultimate court, he or she should not be barred from contesting the elections.

Our Peoples Representation Act, as it exists today, does not allow a person convicted even by a lower court awarding him or her jail sentence of more than two years to contest elections. Sitting MLAs and MPs were enjoying relaxation from this provision, but Supreme Court in its judgment on 10 July 2013, took away their privilege to continue on their post and hence fight the next elections. Our Union government tried to undo the effect of the above judgment unsuccessfully and a message spread that Congress was trying to protect the criminals convicted by the lower court.

Winning the next Lok Sabha elections by Congress-led UPA is an uphill task, because the second innings of UPA government were marred by a series of corruption charges against the people occupying higher or even highest position in the country. The ordinance, which was withdrawn later on, gave a bad name to the UPA government in general and Congress in particular.

Even if the intention of the government to make an Act and bar the charge sheeted criminals from contesting election is to undo the damage inflicted on Congress, it is a welcome effort. In fact, many acts are made and policies are implemented to please the voters by the ruling parties. If the acts and policies are good for the nation, it must be welcomed, not withstanding the intention of the rulers. In democracy, there is democratic pressure on the politicians. Sometimes, they ignore the pressures and sometimes they fall in line. We have seen how politicians of almost all political parties ignored the movement launched by Anna Hazare to enact a Lok Pal Act to fight the menace of corruption.

Now Kapil Sibal and his government are showing interest to enact a legislation, by which a person charge sheeted in heinous crime, which will make him liable to get an award of imprisonment of seven years or more would be disqualified in fighting elections. Crimes like murder, rape, and kidnapping attract punishment of imprisonment for seven years of more. So if the Act is made, people charge sheeted for such crimes will not contest elections.

The Bill of the proposed Act is yet not ready, but it is obvious that it will attract wide ranging debate all over the country. In the proposed act, law minister does not want to include the politicians facing or charge sheeted for corruption cases. There is an Anti Corruption Act in our country. This Act provides a maximum punishment of seven years for a corrupt person. Will the proposed Act include the persons charge sheeted under this Act too? The law minister did not elaborate on it, but since he did not use the word corruption, it seems he does not assume this as a heinous crime. People fed up with corruption would like to see people charge sheeted for corruption, too, to be debarred from contesting the elections.

In fact, we have seen a nation wide movement not against the ‘heinous’ crimes warranting punishment of seven years or more, but against the corruption pervading the nation. That is why people would like to see the proposed Act to include the crime relating to corruption as well. But there would be opposition to this Act by those, who believe that this Act may be misused by the rivals against the politicians. Charges of rape, murder or kidnapping can be slapped even on innocents. In fact, it happens frequently in our country. If persons charge sheeted are barred from contesting the elections, some politicians having good connections and clouts in police and bureaucracy may implicate their rivals in false cases. Leaders belonging to the subaltern parties may make a lot of hues and cries that their workers and leaders of weak socio economic background would be victimised after this Act and therefore, they are likely to oppose this.

But in spite of this drawback, the proposed Act would be welcome by a common man. The quality of political leadership has deteriorated considerably during the last two decades because of caste consciousness among the subaltern people and their leaders have acted irresponsibly by patronising the criminals in politics by making them MLAs and MPs. A closer look of our MPs and MLAs charge sheeted for heinous crimes, suggests that our subaltern leaders have promoted the criminals of the so called elite castes in large number.

It is true that the Act is liable to be misused, but we cannot say that it would be misused on a large scale. There was a time, when leaders managing the affairs of their party used to give tickets to their poor party workers with less means and low clout. Now, tickets are distributed or even sold to mighty people. They are no more from weak family background. Hence the misuse of this Act will not be wide spread, but only exceptions. The menace of criminalisation of politics has reached an alarming extent.

There is need to prevent law breakers to become law makers and bar them from contesting the elections and in this process, even if some persons suffer, we should tolerate it.

Congress can undo the damage it has inflicted upon itself by making the proposed Act a reality. But the question is will it proceed towards the Act in right earnestness or will backtrack from it?

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