Report No. 244
B. The Extent of Criminalisation in Politics
Despite the best intentions of the drafters of the Constitution and the Members of Parliament at the onset of the Indian Republic, the fear of a nexus between crime and politics was widely expressed from the first general election itself in 1952. In fact, as far back as in 1922, Mr C. Rajagopalachari had anticipated the present state of affairs twenty five years before Independence, when he wrote in his prison diary: "Elections and their corruption, injustice and tyranny of wealth, and inefficiency of administration, will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us..."6
6. Per C. Rajagopalachari in Kishor Gandhi, India's Date with Destiny: Ranbir Singh Chowdhary Felicitation Volume, 1st Ed. (Allied Publishers, 2006) 133.
Interestingly, observers have noted that the nature of this nexus changed in the 1970s. Instead of politicians having suspected links to criminal networks, as was the case earlier, it was persons with extensive criminal backgrounds who began entering politics.7 This was confirmed in the Vohra Committee Report in 1993, and again in 2002 in the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC).
The Vohra Committee report pointed to the rapid growth of criminal networks that had in turn developed an elaborate system of contact with bureaucrats, politicians and media persons.8 A Consultation Paper published by the NCRWC in 2002 went further to say that criminals were now seeking direct access to power by becoming legislators and ministers themselves.9
7. Milan Vaishnav, 'The Market for Criminality: Money, Muscles and Elections in India' (2010)
<http://casi.sas.upenn.edu/system/files/Market+for+Criminality+-+Aug+2011.pdf> accessed 14 January 2014.
8. Government of India, 'Vohra Committee Report on Criminalisation of Politics, Ministry of Home Affairs' (1993)
<http://indiapolicy.org/clearinghouse/notes/vohra-rep.doc> accessed 13 January, 2014.
9. National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 'A Consultation Paper on Review of the Working of Political Parties Specially in Relation to Elections and Reform Options' (2002)
<http://lawmin.nic.in/ncrwc/finalreport/v2b1-8.htm> accessed 13 January, 2014.
Since the judgment of the Supreme Court in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, (2002) 5 SCC 294, which made the analysis of criminal records of candidates possible by requiring such records to be disclosed by way of affidavit, the public has had a chance to quantitatively assess the validity of such observations made in the previous reports. The result of such analysis leads to considerable concern.
In the ten years since 2004, 18% of candidates contesting either National or State elections have criminal cases pending against them (11,063 out of 62,847). In 5,253 or almost half of these cases (8.4% of the total candidates analysed), the charges are of serious criminal offences that include murder, attempt to murder, rape, crimes against women, cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, or under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 which on conviction would result in five years or more of jail, etc. 152 candidates had 10 or more serious cases pending, 14 candidates had 40 or more such cases and 5 candidates had 50 or more cases against them.11
11. Association for Democratic Reforms, 'Press Releas.- Ten Years of Election Watch: Comprehensive Reports on Elections, Crime and Money' (2013) 1,
accessed 14 January, 2014 Trilochan Sastry, 'Towards Decriminalisation of Elections and Politics', Economic & Political Weekly, 4 January, 2014.
The 5,253 candidates with serious cases together had 13,984 serious charges against them. Of these charges, 31% were cases of murder and other murder related offences, 4% were cases of rape and offences against women, 7% related to kidnapping and abduction, 7% related to robbery and dacoity, 14% related to forgery and counterfeiting including of government seals and 5% related to breaking the law during elections.12
12. Trilochan Sastry, 'Towards Decriminalisation of Elections and Politics', Economic & Political Weekly, 4 January, 2014.
Criminal backgrounds are not limited to contesting candidates, but are found among winners as well. Of these 5,253 candidates with serious criminal charges against them, 1,187 went on to winning the elections they contested i.e. 13.5% of the 8,882 winners analysed from 2004 to 2013. Overall, including both serious and non-serious charges, 2,497 (28.4% of the winners) had 9,993 pending criminal cases against them.
In the current Lok Sabha, 30% or 162 sitting MPs have criminal cases pending against them, of which about half i.e. 76 have serious criminal cases. Further, the prevalence of MPs with criminal cases pending has increased over time. In 2004, 24% of Lok Sabha MPs had criminal cases pending, which increased to 30% in the 2009 elections.13
13. Association for Democratic Reforms, 'National Level Analysis of Lok Sabha 2009 Elections' (2009)
<http://adrindia.org/sites/default/files/0.9%20final%20report%20_%20lok%20sabha%202009.pdf> accessed 13 January, 2014.
The situation is similar across states with 31% or 1,258 out of 4,032 sitting MLAs with pending cases, with again about half being serious cases.14 Some states have a much higher percentage of MLAs with criminal records: in Uttar Pradesh, 47% of MLAs have criminal cases pending.15 A number of MPs and MLAs have been accused of multiple counts of criminal charges. In a constituency of Uttar Pradesh, for example, the MLA has 36 criminal cases pending including 14 cases related to murder.16
15. Association for Democratic Reforms, 'Press Releas.- Analysis of Criminal, Financial and other details on Newly Elected MLAs of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections, 2012', (2012)
<http://adrindia.org/download/file/fid/2668> accessed 13 January, 2014.
From this data it is clear that about one-third of elected candidates at the Parliament and State Assembly levels in India have some form of criminal taint. Data elsewhere suggests that one-fifth of MLAs have pending cases which have proceeded to the stage of charges being framed against them by a court at the time of their election.17 Even more disturbing is the finding that the percentage of winners with criminal cases pending is higher than the percentage of candidates without such backgrounds. While only 12% of candidates with a "clean" record win on average, 23% of candidates with some kind of criminal record win.
This means that candidates charged with a crime actually fare better at elections than 'clean' candidates. Probably as a result, candidates with criminal cases against them tend to be given tickets a second time.18 Not only do political parties select candidates with criminal backgrounds, there is evidence to suggest that untainted representatives later become involved in criminal activities.19 The incidence of criminalisation of politics is thus pervasive making its remediation an urgent need.
17. Vaishnav, (n.7), 10
18. Sastry (n.12), 3
19. Christophe Jaffrelot, 'Indian Democracy: The Rule of Law on Trial'(2002) 1(1) India Review 77