Noting that persons with criminal background are becoming policy makers in many parts of the country, the Madras High Court last week demanded from the Centre why it does not enact a law to prohibit candidates with criminal background from contesting elections to the Parliament as well as State legislatures as suggested by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on September 25, 2018 in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India.
The Court, inter alia, also sought to inquire from the Central government how many persons with criminal background are accommodated by various political parties as top office bearers and District Secretaries and the details of the criminal cases registered against those persons and their position in the respective political parties.
"The same has to be prevented and the system has to be cleansed. This is possible, only if the top leaders of our political parties are firm in not admitting the criminals in their political parties", observed Justices N. Kirubakaran and V. L. Velumani.
The division bench further noted that the leaders should have a "vision for decriminalization of politics", that if criminals are accommodated in political parties and given tickets to contest elections and elected as M.L.A.s, M.P.s, and made Ministers, "wrong message would be sent to the people".
Reiterating that persons with criminal backgrounds should not become policy makers, the bench cited a 2019 report of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)- "Lok Sabha Elections 2019 - Analysis of Background, Financial, Education, Gender and other details of the winners", which revealed that 43% (233 out of 539) elected M.P.s have declared their criminal cases. Out of that, 29% (159 M.P.s) have serious criminal cases pending against them.
"Therefore, the Central Government has to come out with a comprehensive legislation to prohibit persons with criminal background from contesting elections to Parliament, State Legislatures and local bodies as observed by the Constitution Bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court in Public Interest Foundation and others vs. Union of India and another on 25th September 2018", stated the bench.
Stressing that Indian Democracy should not be tainted by criminals, the bench remarked that it is further seen that some of the criminal elements are floating political parties on their own with the support of their religion or communities and the same is required to be prohibited.
The bench was considering a habeas corpus petition in respect of a person detained under the Puducherry Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, 2008 .
"It is evident from media reports that criminal elements in Puducherry have close connections and support of political parties", noted the bench, commenting that political parties are having criminals as their members and also office bearers.
"It is brought to the notice of this Court that many cases are relating to inter-gang rivalries and country made bombs are used to murder the opposite gang members. Totally in 5 cases, country made bombs were hurled by the detenu and his associates. Only in two cases, charge sheets have been filed in which offences under the Explosives Substances Act, 1908, have been invoked. So far, no charge sheet has been filed in the case where a double barrel country made gun was used. The detenu and his associates are said to have used country made bombs for a murder committed in 2017. Though the case has been registered in the year 2017, the sanction for prosecution under Explosives Substances Act has not been granted by the Government. Only after this Court questioned the attitude of the Respondents, sanction has been granted last week and charge sheet has also been filed in the said case", reflected the bench.
The Court proceeded to observe that three years' delay in granting sanction for the case registered in the year 2017 is only due to the political support enjoyed by the accused. Noting that in a 2015 case, not even investigation is over for the past 5 years, the bench commented "this would speak about his clout with political parties, especially ruling parties and Police. But for political interference, Police would have filed charge sheets".
"This would only go to show the lethargic attitude of the police even in the cases involving heinous criminals that too murders by using country made bombs", remarked the bench, pointing out that in 2018, a former Speaker of Puducherry was murdered by a gang in the same fashion.
The bench indicated that it is reported in media that even some Ministers and Legislators are being given security by rowdy gangs.
"In most of the cases, the accused would be more than ten persons and they will not cooperate with trial and cases are pending because of the Non-Bailable Warrant issued against the accused. Since the cases are pending for a long time, the Courts are compelled to split up the matters and thereafter, conduct trials. This has to be taken into consideration by the lower Courts while granting bail, as the accused violate the bail conditions", recorded the bench.
Noted that rowdy gangs are operated by many politicians, communal and religious leaders throughout the Country and that there seems to be a syndicate between the police force, political leaders and rowdy gangs and hence, the safety and security of the people is jeopardised, the Court posed a volley of queries to the Centre.
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