The verdict is a disappointment — what we need are untainted MPs
The September 25 verdict of the Supreme Court on criminalisation of politics left much to be desired. The Election Commission (EC), frustrated by its own helplessness in the matter, has been crying hoarse to the government, political parties and the apex court for help in stemming corrupt influences on our legislatures. The court’s verdict essentially passed on the responsibility to the EC itself. The court also said that it cannot play the role of Parliament. But Parliament, regardless of the party of coalition in power, has not been playing its own legitimate role. According to Article 102(1) of the Constitution, Parliament is obliged to make a law on the matter. But if history is any indicator, there is a slim chance, if any, that legislative action will follow the Supreme Court judgment. The EC’s safeguards in this regard are crystal clear. First, all criminal cases will not invite a ban; only those concerned with heinous offences like rape, dacoity, murder and kidnapping will. Second, the case should be registered at least six months before the elections. Third, a court must have framed the charges. Further, assertions regarding a candidate being “innocent until proven guilty” are debatable. After all, there are about 2.7 lakh prisoners in jails still under trial and hence innocent. Yet, they are denied fundamental rights like right to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation and right to dignity. May I remind that contesting elections is not even a fundamental but a statutory right? The verdict has arrived as a huge disappointment when seen in the context of the need for untainted parliamentarians. Judicial activism saved this country many times when the executive and the legislature were not willing to do their job. We know from history that the legislature has not moved on this front. This was an activist measure from the judiciary that would have been welcome.