Corruption in high places has become the order of the day. In the blind pursuit of power, – what matters is the result, not the means. What was known to the public for decades has been reported by the Vohra Committee – that there is a nexus between politicians and criminal elements and there is a proliferation of criminal gangs under political patronage. The Union Government has been slack in dealing with this menace.Though the Union Home Secretary is the chairman of the nodal agency and the chiefs of intelligence agencies are members, and interact almost on a daily basis with each other, nothing seems to have come about from their meetings, which means the nodal agency is an eyewash. If our democracy is to survive the onslaught of criminal elements—the organised crime—on the system, there is need to take urgent and decisive steps. Do we have the political will to do so? Can the Indian public be roused to demand stern action against this nexus?
Politicians, devoid of a record of service, sacrifice and a mass base, need money and muscle power to retain their positions and to bludgeon their constituency into submission. Criminal elements thrive on wrong doings and they need someone to keep the police away off their back. They also need the cooperation of the bureaucracy to regularise their illegal activities.
The police and the bureaucrats need political patronage to have comfortable postings and a smooth advancement in career. Thus, a mutually beneficial relationship develops between these three. Once the politician reaches a particular stature and develops clout, he dictates terms to the police and bureaucracy much to the delight of the criminal elements. The bonds become stronger and one finds it difficult to survive without the help of the other and a point of no return is reached.-
Organised crime is opposed to all values cherished by a liberal democracy. Its activities deny the basic human rights to the havenots and undermines the principle of rule of law and equality before law. It vitiates the electoral process by denying the opportunities to many to exercise their franchise freely. It undermines the rights of women, children, labour and others. As a first step, all national political parties in the country should realise the threat to the foundation of democracy from organised crime.
Existing laws are woefully inadequate to deal with various manifestations of organised crime. There is need for a special law like other countries to deal with this menace. We need special courts and suitable modifications in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Acts to deliver justice fast. The inability of the system to deal firmly with, breach of public peace, extortion, protection rackets, gambling, prostitution, drugs leads to the development of organised crime.
Organised crime treats the system with contempt and exploits the loopholes in law. A pro-active, public spirited judiciary can change this scenario. The law should be implemented in spirit and criminal elements should not be allowed to get away. For example, while the slogan, ‘Bail is a right’ may be commendable in respect of lawabiding citizens, its denial to a criminal prevents many a crime and serves a social purpose. Since granting of bail is the discretion of the judiciary, it should be exercised in the larger interests of society. Re-establishment of the rule of law is a sure way of deciminating the organised crime. Members of the public and non-governmental organisations can play a vital role in this sphere.
The police and the bureaucracy are at the mercy of politicians for’their survival. A politician’s displeasure would mean harassment such as frequent transfers and disruption in career advancement. Therefore the rule of the game is to toe the line of politicians. Since the police and bureaucracy act as catalysts for the growth of the nexus between the politician and criminal elements, it is necessary to liberate them, to make both the wings of the -government people-oriented and act without fear or favour. Control of politicians over them should be carefully structured. The recommendations of the National Police Commission to establish a State Security Commission should be vigorously implemented. Similarly, there is need to establish an autonomous State Administrative Commission. Activities of organised crime transcend state and national boundaries and are illegal. To deal with them effectively and bring them to book, professional expertise of a high order in detection, investigation and application of science and technology are called for. The Central Bureau of Investigation possesses all these. As part of Interpol network, it has access to the resources of national police agencies all over the world. It has a reputation for impartiality and integrity.
It is in the fitness of things that the CBI should be made the nodal agency and the clearing house for all information on organised crime. A separate wing styled as anti-organised crime division should be opened in the CBI with an additional director as its head. This division should have officers in all metropolises and cities where organised crime thrives. Its members should be deputed to visit Italy, the US, France and other countries which have a well established network and study the work of law enforcement agencies there.
The nexus between politicians and criminal elements is worldwide. Unlike India, in other countries, swift action is taken and tainted politicians are made to retire from public life. A standing joint parliamentary committee on ethics in political process should be established. Ali reports of links of politicians with criminal elements and doubtful sources of finances of politicians and political parties should be referred to this committee. For investigation of specific allegations, this committee should use the services of the anti-organised crime division of the C.B.I. To take heed on the nexus, a moral courage and vision is needed. It is said, that since 1967 and particularly after 1977, the Indian National Congress has allowed itself to be dominated by lumpen elements. Their success at the grassroots level had spurred other parties, with little or no hope of coming to power, to refine the strategy. This has resulted in the criminalisation of the political process. The recent Tandoori murder in New Delhi, is a case in point. Political sagacity demands that leaders should cry a halt to this downward trend in ethics of politics. Leaders of the nineteenth century paved the way for democracy in the twentieth century. What will be the claim of our present day leaders and how will they be remembered in twentyfirst century? Defenders and preservers of democratic values or as harbingers of lumpenisation of political process? There is time yet to avert an adverse verdict of history. Without wasting time, let us act decisively.
The words much maligned and brandied about these days are “crime and politics”, “criminalisation of politics” and “politicisation of crime”. Why is there such uproar about the nexus between crime and politics has assumed such monstrous dimensions that it seems to shake the confidence of the public and threatens the very existence of our body politic. In fact, the shadow of crime, of late, has been crippling the legislative bodies to such an extent that a question often, raised is whether the system of democracy which we have adopted with such gaiety and gusto will survive.
It is the elected members of Parliament and State legislatures as custodians of public welfare—some of whom become Ministers and Chief Ministers—who decide the destiny of the country. They play a pivotal role in shaping the policies and programmes for the welfare of the people through appropriate legislation. Hence the paramount importance attached to the elected representatives, and their activities on the floors of Parliament and State legislatures.
In view of the onerous responsiblities cast on members of the legislative bodies, the founding fathers of the Constitution, through Article 102 (1), have laid down some disqualifications for such membership. Besides, Parliament, in pursuance of the powers granted under Article 327, has further enacted the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 governing the elections which contains some more additional disqualifications. A member of a State legislature is also disqualified on the same grounds.
The Constitution makers optea tor a parliamentary system of government with the pious hope that only people of unimpeachable conduct and character, inspired with a deep-seated commitment to do selfless service to the people would enter the portals of Parliament and State legislatures.
But, alas , it has not taken much time for the expectations of the architects of the Constitution as well as the people who have entertained high hopes about their elected representatives to be belied. The legislative bodies have lost their luster, what with people of proven record of crime trooping in through abuse of money, muscle and liquor, thus making a mockercy of the august institutions they happen to be members of.
Hearty pleasantries, sense of humour, sparkling repartees, enlivening debates, inspiring arguments and counter arguments cutting across politics, pride and prejudice which were the characteristic features of the legislative bodies in the past are conspicuous by their absence now. Instead, ugly andunruly scenes, such as firsty cuffs, invading the will of the house, besieging of the Speaker’s podium and exchange of unparliamentary epithets have become the hallmarks of our parliamentary democracy. Discipline, decency and decorum have been cast away.
Adjournments, some times more than once, on a single day, on flimsy and rivolous grounds, causing a loss of crores of rupees to the Central and State exchequers, have become a rule rather than an exception. Seldom have we seen the Treasury benches andthe Opposition working on tha same wavelength even on issues relevant to the welfare of the people.
The political situation in India is such that crime has infiltrated politics and political parties on such a massive scale that the lines of demarcation between crime and politics, criminals and politicians are blurred. Criminals masquerading as politicians are calling the shots resulting in a steady erosion of the confidence of the public in the very system of parliamentary democracy. A new brand of politicians steeped in crime and oblivious of our glorious heritage have appeared on the political firmament and are holding the country to ransom. Rape, murder and abduction for money have become as routine as anything else in almost all the states. No political party, whatever be its strength and stature, can feign innocence of such criminal activities. Politics has become highly criminalised, particularly , in Bihar and U.P. the two biggest states which send the largest contingent of members to the Lok Sabha.
This canker of crime is noted in all walks of life. A tenant who does not pay the rent and even refuses to vacate the house, ultimately yields at the intervention of goons, backed by political heavyweights. Where the aggreived parties hesitate to approach the courts either because of the prohibitive cost of litigation or because of abnormal delay in the disposal of the cases by the courts, they approach the goondas who in turn dispense instant justice. The goons, with the blessings of the politicians have usurped the privilege and duty of the Court. Reprehensible activities are indulged in by the mafia gangs with the full protection and partonage of the politicians in power.
It is reported that Phoolan Devi, bandit queen of Madhya Pradesh, who for a long time sent shivers down the spine of many a policeman in and around the Chambal Valley may contest against Ms. Mayavati, the Chief Minister of UP, in the next elections. She thinks she may be killed by the police in a false encounter at the instance of Ms. Mayavati. Phoolan Devi, notorious for her ruthlessness, was seen in a photograph that appeared in a newspaper smiling standing by the side of Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister. A more shocking spectacle cannot be conceived.
The violence that was let loose in the State Guest House at Lucknow on Ms. Mayavati and her supporters on June 2, 1995 by the activists owing allegiance to Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Chief Minister, is still fresh in our memory. A cabinet rank Minister of U.P., a criminal turned politician, gate crashing into a police station, wielding a gun, has not yet vanished into oblivion. In Andhra Pradesh, Kondapali Sitaramaiah is still referred by his friends and foes alike. He is the partiarchal figure in the naxalite movement (called the People’s War Group), responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent persons and still a force to reckon with, intending to contest the elections, at the same time asserting that he would rebuild the naxalite party. What would be the fate of democracy and its cherished institutions if persons like K.S. were to enter the portals of legislatures?
The bomb blasts that occurred sometime ago in Bombay resulting in the death of several persons and the alleged connection of underworld mafia gang with political leaders are only too well-known to be repeated here. The gruesome murder of Naina Sahni, by her husband Sushil Sharma, an influential Youth Congress activist being a suspect, sent shock waves across the country.
Parliament elections are held every five years. Every politician tries to show himself virtuous to be virtuous. No purpose will be served by mere rhetoric perorations and fulminations denouncing the nexus between crime and politics and its baneful effect on the body politics. Nor will any amount of sermonisation stem and stall the steady flow of crime into politics. What is urgently required is some concrete action calculated to restore the sagging confidence of the people in the very existence of democratic institutions. It is time for all the political parties to pause and ponder over the steps urgently needed to weed out the criminal elements from their parties.
The set of disqualifications prescribed in Article 102(1) of the Constitution and the People’s Representation Act fall short of the panacea needed to cure the disease of crime afflicting the democratic polity. There is no educational qualification prescribed for membership many of the parliament. Hence quite rich veterans are compelled to buy lot of votes by money. The prospect of political parties imposing on themselves any restrictions in this regard is ruled out. After all, they are the beneficiaries of the infiltration of criminals.
It is therefore incumbent on the part of the Election Commission, to evolve and enact stringent legislation to prohibit the political parties from fielding candidates whose past is tainted with crime and who have better chances of winning through strongarm methods than through merit. The Election Commission should maintain dossiers on the candidates and if necessary extend the duration between the dates of nomination and withdrawal. It should be empowered to prevent candidates with a proven criminal record from contesting elections and be empowered to annul the election of such candidates who are found to have aided, abetted or actually perpetrated any crime during the term of their membership of either Parliament or State Legislature by amending the People’s Representation Act. The Election Commission must open a separate cell in its office exclusively for this purpose.
The Government has rejected the. Opposition demand for a parliamentary panel to monitor the implementation of the Vohra Committee report on criminalisation of politics, but in what looked like an attempt to soften the blow, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. Shivaraj Patil, accepted in principle the idea of setting up an Ethics Committee of Parliament. The Committee would regulate the conduct of MPs with a view to minimising the scope for corruption.
For its part the Government, keen to establish that it was serious about decriminalising politics, supported the Opposition motion demanding action on the Vohra Committee’s report. The motion, moved by the Janata Dal leader Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, was unanimously adopted by the House by a voice vote.
Mr. Chavan said the various intelligence agencies would not easily part with information fearing that it might be leaked and therefore a nodal agency to coordinate the follow up was the only solution. Besides, each agency which had gathered intelligence wanted to claim credit for itself rather than share it with another body. The nodal agency which had already been set up could evolve its own investigative mechanism.
The Opposition had strongly opposed the idea of a nodal agency and demanded a parliamentary committee to supervise implementation of the report. Mr. Arjun Singh had moved an amendment to Mr. Paswan’s motion suggesting an 11-member parliamentary committee for the purpose. The Speaker, while rejecting it, agreed that the leaders could advise the Government on how best to implement the report.
He also accepted the demand for an ethics committee made by the entire Opposition.
Mr. Chavan in his reply said criminalisation of politics was not a party issue and appealled to all parties not to support candidates with criminal record He also urged the States to allow the Centre to investigate cases of “heinous crimes” saying that otherwise New Delhi might be constrained to pass a legislation waiving the need to seek the State government’s consent in such cases