Decriminalization of politics : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

Decriminalization of politics : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

Definition and Extent of Criminalisation in Politics

  • Gaining something through illegal means is called crime and use of politics or political power for criminal gains is known as Criminalisation of politics.

  • According to Association of Democratic Reform, around 1/3rd members of present parliament have criminal cases filed against them.

Causes of Criminalisation of Politics

  • Unholy nexus between politicians and bureaucracy.

  • Use of caste and religion in politics.

  • The interference of politicians in the administration.

  • Lack of development, illiteracy, poverty etc. are added culprit for the criminalisation of politics. 

Criminalisation of Politics and its impacts

  • A corrupt person, if gets elected infuses disvalues in the system such as corruption, nepotism, partisanship etc.

  • This impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of institutions and thereby, erodes the trust of people in the government.

Policy and legislative initiatives to check the criminalization of Politics

  • Section 8 of Representation of People Act, 1951 lays down certain rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s. A person convicted by court and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of more than 2 years is disqualified from contesting elections for the imprisoned period and a further period of 6 years since his release.

  • RoPA, 1951 disqualifies a candidate for the use of corrupt practise at the election.

  • Under the provisions of Finance Bill 2017, the maximum cash donation that a political party can receive is not to exceed 2000 Rupees per person.

  • Reforms in Corporate Funding has been done by removing the limit of 7.5% of net profit, for the contribution a company can make to the political parties. Further parties need not to disclose the name of donors.

  • In order to get exemption, from the paying income tax every political party would have to file its return in accordance with the provisions of the Income-tax Act.

  • Introduction of Electoral bonds is a positive step taken in direction of decriminalizing the politics, as these bonds may reduce the use of Black Money in the politics.

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Reformative steps taken by Election Commission of India

  • Effective implementation of the Model code of conduct.

  • Mandatory declaration of assets.

  • Election Commission of India has demanded more independence and Financial Autonomy from Government Control to have more free hand over the Criminalizing Activities in politics.

Reformative steps taken by Judiciary

  • Supreme Court judgments disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs (Lily Thomas vs. Union of India, 2013), barring those in jail from contesting (Chief Election Commissioner vs. Jan Chowkidar, 2013), directing the EC to bring the issue of election related freebies under the ambit of the Code of Conduct.

  • The Supreme Court in its recent order has recommended setting a deadline for the lower courts to complete trial in cases involving lawmakers within a year of framing of charges.

Solutions for Decriminalisation of Election

1.State funding of elections

  • As there is no transparency in funding of political parties, therefore sometimes even black money finds its way to win elections.

  • A well-functioning democracy requires vibrant political parties and competitive elections.

  • State funding of elections, been supported by various committees like Indrajit Gupta Committee and 2nd ARC.

  • It creates level playing field and allows public spirited people to contest elections and thereby ensures equality of opportunities.

  • It can break the political-corporate nexus, thereby ending rent seeking and crony capitalism.

  • The election would focus more on issues rather than on raising funds through illegitimate means. i.e. focus on Development Politics. Therefore, it is expected to infuse probity in political system.

2. Transparency and audit mechanisms.

3. Stricter implementation of anti-corruption laws.

4. RPA act need to be amended there should be stricter actions against serious offenders.
5. Election Commission should be given more power, when dealing with Corruption cases. 
6. Political will – Parties should refuse tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds.

7. Inner party democracy need to be improved. 
8. Fast track courts-should be established for dealing with cases of serious charges.
9. Anti-Defection Law should be tightened.

Way Ahead

Supreme Court has imparted its role considerably in decriminalising the Parliament. But SC or Election Commission can’t decriminalize the politics single handed they require support from Legislation too. State funding of elections may not be the panacea to the problems faced in the electoral process and it is necessary to adopt other measures, irrespective of whether State funding is provided or not.


Q. How criminalisation of Politics affects the democracy? Analyse the issue of Criminalisation in India and what are the various steps taken by Election Commission, judiciary and legislature in this regard? Suggest way ahead for decriminalizing the politics? (15 Marks)

Q. Which of the following steps may help in decriminalizing the politics.

  1. State funding of elections

  2. Inner party Democracy

  3. Amending Anti- Defection Law

  4. Amending RoPA, 1951

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

A.     1&2 Only

B.     2&4 Only

C.     1,2&3 Only

D.    All of the above.

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