The Supreme Court’s recent landmark judgment, which ensures that convicted politicians will now get immediately disqualified from contesting in elections or holding office, marks an end to almost a two decade long tug-of-war between political parties and the Election Commission over the right of electoral candidacy to tainted candidates. While it is surely a landmark judgment and it’s not fair to be critical about everything, yet, the board is split into equal halves in their opinion towards the SC ruling, as pros and cons of the judgment seem to weigh equally.
On the one hand, just because a case is hanging against a candidate, it is grossly unfair for the person to be assumed disqualified (due to the hyped up fear of future conviction) – as the allegation could well be fabricated. As it often happens in the political domain, a candidate could be debarred based on false allegation brought about by vested interests to stonewall him from standing in an election. It’s quite easy and simple: just file a case against him, tom tom the fact that the candidate could end up getting convicted, and he is done for good.
Morally, it’s our Constitutional right to remain innocent until proved guilty. And if that doctrine is applicable to all Indian citizens, it is only fair that the same applies to the politicians as well. It is not that the SC judgment goes against this. But the scrutiny that politicians will face now, especially the honest ones who have trumped up cases against them, could well be unfair. The attempts over the years to enforce stringent rules against political candidates has been to stem the growing criminalization of Indian politics and to debilitate the nefarious nexus of politicians with goons and unlawful activities. But I have to admit, in this attempt to secure a fine balance between being just and unjust, it is debatable how far the strings should be pulled in curbing criminal activities in politics and how much latitude should be given to electoral candidates. The fact also is that a mind-numbing high percentage of Indian politicians have got criminal cases pending against them, most of which are genuine, but they are not convicted due to their muscle power.