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With the Election Commission of India (ECI) telling the Supreme Court (SC) that it supports setting up of special courts to try accused legislators and imposing a life ban on those convicted has stirred if not shaken Indian politics. The ECI clarified its stance to India’s highest court in its affidavit filed in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a BJP spokesperson.
If these recommendations were to see the light of the day, it could signal the end for many a politician. Among those who could see their political career end would include RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav, Congressman Navjot Sidhu, former Jharkhand CMs Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren and many others.
Lalu was convicted and jailed in the fodder scam. Sidhu was convicted in a road rage case in 2006 with the appeal pending in SC. Koda was convicted in a money laundering case while Soren was convicted for murder. Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala who are in prison after being convicted in the teachers’ recruitment scam in Haryana could also see their careers end. Sasikala who cannot contest elections till 2027 could also see her political career end.
The ECI’s response in SC supporting the setting up of special courts to decide cases against legislators is rooted in the abysmally low rates of conviction and protracted trial durations. A study by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) found that a third of all Lok Sabha MPs in the current house have criminal cases against them.186 out of the 541 MPs in the current house had declared criminal cases against them in their affidavits.
ADR analysis also shows that 53 of these MPs still have criminal cases pending against them in various courts. MPs with the largest number of cases where charges have been framed against them included Pappu Yadav (RJD), Shrimant Bhonsale (NCP), P. Karunakaran and P K Sreemathi (CPM) and Tathagata Satpathy (BJD).
The analysis further revealed that 112 MPs had serious criminal cases against them that include attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping and crimes against women. Sixteen MPs declared cases related to inciting communal disharmony against them. Twenty-two per cent of all MPs with serious criminal cases were from the BJP while seven per cent were from the Congress.
Under current election laws in India, any legislator who is convicted for offences and jailed for a period of two or more years is disqualified from the date of conviction and is barred from contesting polls for six years after being released from prison.