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Criminalisation of Politics in India

Why is it in the news?

  • According to the latest data from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), approximately one-third of members in the Rajya Sabha have declared criminal cases against themselves.
Criminalization of politics

·       Criminalization of politics in India denotes the participation of individuals with criminal charges or backgrounds in the political arena.

·       This phenomenon involves individuals with criminal histories contesting elections and subsequently being elected as members of parliament or state legislatures.


 Some of the Key Findings by ADR

  • According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), approximately 36% of candidates contesting elections to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s Parliament, have declared criminal cases against themselves.
  • The ADR analysis also reveals that the average assets of these candidates stand at a significant ₹81 crore. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled the Electoral Bonds Scheme unconstitutional for infringing upon voters’ right to information.
  • Over the years, there has been a notable increase in the number of registered unrecognised political parties, as highlighted by ADR’s reports.
  • ADR has raised concerns regarding the process of appointing Election Commissioners by the Centre, arguing that it may violate constitutional provisions (Articles 14 and Article 324 (2)).

Major Reasons for Criminalisation

  • The nexus between criminals and politicians often arises from vote-bank politics, where candidates seek support from particular communities irrespective of their criminal backgrounds.
  • Enforcement of laws and judgments against politicians with criminal records remains lax, perpetuating a culture of impunity.
  • Ethical deficiencies within political parties and loopholes in the functioning of the election commission contribute to the persistence of criminal elements in politics.
  • Political interference in the state machinery and widespread corruption provides fertile ground for criminals to enter politics.
  • The resistance within the political establishment to enact meaningful reforms or change existing laws perpetuates the problem of criminalisation.

Issues Arising from Criminalisation

  • The presence of politicians with criminal backgrounds compromises the fundamental purpose of governance, which is to ensure the safety and security of citizens.
  • The low conviction rates and a high number of pending cases in the judicial system undermine public trust in the efficacy of the legal system.
  • Politicians’ undue influence in police stations leads to compromised law enforcement, allowing criminal activities to thrive.
  • The symbiotic relationship between politicians and criminals often results in the escalation of criminal activities, including extortion, land grabbing, and intimidation of witnesses.

Measures to Curb Criminalisation

  • The Vohra Committee, formed in 1993, recommended amendments to the Representation of People Act, advocating for the disqualification of individuals with criminal backgrounds from contesting elections.
  • The Law Commission’s 179th report echoed similar sentiments, proposing stricter regulations requiring candidates to disclose pending criminal cases and financial details.
  • The Supreme Court has issued several directives over the years, mandating the declaration of criminal and financial records by candidates, disqualifying convicted MPs/MLAs, and expediting trials against sitting legislators.
  • Special courts have been established to expedite the trial of criminal cases against elected representatives.
  • Political parties are now required to disclose pending criminal cases against their candidates and provide reasons for their selection or rejection.

Supreme Court Judgments Related to Criminalisation of Politics

  • 2002: Candidates contesting elections were mandated to declare their criminal, financial records, and educational qualifications.
  • 2005: Sitting Members of Parliament (MP) or Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA) would be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more.
  • 2014: The Supreme Court accepted Law Commission recommendations, ordering trials against sitting MPs and MLAs to conclude within a year of charges being framed, conducted on a day-to-day basis.
  • 2017: The government initiated a scheme to establish 12 special courts for a year to expedite the trial of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs.
  • 2021: Political parties were directed to upload details of pending criminal cases against their candidates on their websites and social media platforms. Reasons for candidate selection or rejection were also to be disclosed.
  • Recent Mandates: The Supreme Court issued necessary mandates to prevent the criminalisation of politics, emphasizing transparency, as many lawsuits against MPs and MLAs had been withdrawn in the past.


  • The criminalisation of politics in India poses a grave threat to democratic principles and national development.
  • Transparency and accountability in the candidate selection process of political parties must be strengthened to prevent the entry of individuals with criminal backgrounds into politics.
  • The Election Commission and other relevant authorities need to enforce transparency measures, particularly concerning party funding.
  • Strong and decisive measures are imperative to restore public faith in the democratic system and mitigate the influence of criminal elements in politics.
About Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

·       ADR, a non-partisan organization founded by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, focuses on combating corruption and criminalisation in politics.

·       It plays a crucial role in empowering voters by disseminating information about candidates’ criminal backgrounds, financial details, and other pertinent information.


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