• Upcoming Bihar elections in October 2020, will be the first election where the Supreme
  • Court’s decision (given in February 2020) that requires political parties to publish the
  • entire criminal history of their candidates for elections along with the reasons to field such
  • suspected criminals, will be implemented. (example of judicial activism)
  • This judgement also requires such information mandatorily be published in a local and national
  • newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • While the judgment may have far-reaching consequences for curbing criminalisation of politics,
  • yet still a lot has to be done to make a cleaner electoral process in India.
  • This order by the Supreme Court is in line with a series of judgments aimed at preserving the
  • purity of the election process. Some of the judgements are as follows:

o Directions to ensure the asset disclosure and criminal records of candidates.

o The incorporation of the ‘none of the above’ option in the voting machine.

o Invalidation of a clause that protected sitting legislators from immediate disqualification

after conviction.

o Establishment of special courts in all States for the quick disposal of cases involving

elected representatives.

o In 2013, the Supreme Court in the case Lily Thomas vs. Union of India ruled that a sitting

MP and MLA convicted of a jail term of two years or more would lose their seat in the

legislature immediately

  • The judgment assumes importance amid the steady deterioration in politics over decades, with the decline accelerating in the last two decades.



  • Lack of Political Will: Majorly whatever progress made in curbing criminalisation of politics has been through the initiative of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission.

o However, it is parliament’s responsibility to amend the Representation of the People (RPA) Act 1951, which deals with disqualification of candidates against whom charges have been proved in court for serious offences.

  • Lack of Enforcement: Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, due to the lack of enforcement of laws and judgments. For example, blatant violation of Model Code of


  • Narrow Self-interests: Publishing of the entire criminal history of candidates fielded by political parties may not be very effective, as a major chunk of voters tend to vote through a narrow prism of community interests like caste or religion.
  • Use of Muscle and Money Power: Candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
  • Lack of Choices: Sometimes voters are left with no options, as all competing candidates have criminal records.
  • Against the Principle of Free and Fair Election: Using money and muscle power in elections, limits the choice of voters to elect a suitable candidate.

o Also, it is against the ethos of free and fair election which is the bedrock of a democracy.

  • Affecting Good Governance: The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance.

o These unhealthy tendencies in the democratic system reflect a poor image of the nature of India’s state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.

  • Affecting Integrity of Public Servants: It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, which in turn increases corruption in society and affects the working of public servants.
  • Causes Social Disharmony: It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow and reduces people ‘s faith in democracy as a system of governance.
  • State Funding of Elections: Various committees (Dinesh Goswami, Indrajit Gupta Committee)
  • on the electoral reforms have recommended for state funding of elections. State funding of
  • elections will curb use of black money to a large extent and thereby will have a greater
  • transparency in campaign financing.
  • Strengthening of Election Commission: Election Commission can register a political party but
  • cannot deregister it. Regulating the affairs of a political party is essential for a cleaner electoral
  • Law Commission (255th on Electoral Reforms): Recommended Disqualification at the stage of
  • charging for criminal case, accompanied by substantial attendant legal safeguards to prevent
  • Strong legislation to regulate the functioning of political parties For eg. ECI’s proposal to fix
  • expenditure limit on political parties
  • Fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly
  • Strict enforcement of existing laws: There is a gap in their intent and their implementation.
  • This gap then ensures that the purpose of the law is defeated.
  • Behavioural Change: Until the citizens realise that people who bribe them for votes cannot be
  • trusted and it will be to their ultimate disadvantage, the efforts to curb criminalisation of politics
  • will have limited impact. Thus, voters also need to be vigilant about misuse of money, gifts and
  • other inducements during elections

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