Why not enact a Law to Bar Criminals in Elections, asks High Court

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The High Court of Madras has asked the Centre to explain in 2 weeks as to why it shouldn’t enact a law prohibiting people with criminal background from contesting in parliamentary, Assembly & local body elections.

Justice N. Kirubakaran & Justice V.M. Velumani issued the direction after taking note of media reports of “persons with criminal background becoming policy makers in many parts of the country.” They said such practice “has to be prevented & the system has to be cleansed.”

Passing an interim order on a habeas corpus petition (HCP), the Bench said that “This is possible only if the top leaders of our political parties are firm in not admitting criminals in their parties. The leaders should have a vision for decriminalisation of politics.”

The Bench pointed out that an analysis of the 2019 Lok Sabha election winners by Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation, revealed that 43 per cent (233 out of 539 Members of Parliament) had declared criminal cases pending against them.

Further, 29 per cent (159 MPs) of the legislators were facing serious criminal cases.

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The Bench said that “Therefore, the Central Government has to come out with a comprehensive legislation to prohibit persons with criminal background from contesting elections”.

Authoring the order, Justice Kirubakaran observed that “Indian democracy should not be tainted by criminals. It is seen that some of the criminal elements are also floating political parties on their own with the support of their religion or communities & the same is required to be prohibited.”

The observations were made while dealing with the HCP to quash a preventive detention order passed against Jana alias A. Janarthanan, who is facing as many as 19 criminal cases including charges of murder, attempt to murder, & dacoity in Puducherry.

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Though the cases were pending as early as in 2009, investigation had not been completed in most of the cases.

The Court said, “This would speak about his clout with political parties especially ruling parties & police. But for political interference, police would have filed charge sheets”.

It expressed dismay over media reports of criminal elements in Puducherry having close connection & support of political parties & some of the Ministers & legislators being provided security by rowdy gangs. Use of country bombs had become very common in the union territory, it said.

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The Bench added that “Many murders are committed cruelly by throwing country made bombs. In three cases, registered against the present detenu, he & other accused had used country made bombs. In 2018, former Speaker of Puducherry Sivakumar was murdered by a gang in same fashion”.

After impleading the Director General of Police as one of the respondents to the HCP suo motu, the judges directed him to submit in two weeks, the details of rowdy gangs active in Puducherry. The judges also wanted to know similar countrywide data from the Centre.

The other directions issued to the DGP included submission of details regarding the number of persons with criminal background accommodated as Top office bearers & district secretaries of various political parties & the nature of cases booked against them. 

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