Cleansing politics from criminal elements begins with purifying political parties itself, as they are the central institution of India’s democracy, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday.
The verdict by the five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India referred to the Law Commission reports which pointed out that political parties have been chiefly responsible for criminalisation of politics. Though the Representation of the People Act disqualifies a sitting legislator or a candidate on certain grounds, there is nothing regulating the appointments to offices within the the party.
A politician may be disqualified from being a legislator, but he may continue to hold high positions within his party, thus also continuing to play an important public role which he has been deemed unfit for by the law. Convicted politicians may continue to influence law-making by controlling the party and fielding proxy candidates in legislature, the Chief Justice wrote in the judgment. Political parties act as a conduit through which interests and issues of the people are represented in Parliament. They play a central role in the interface between private citizens and public life, Chief Justice Misra wrote.
The verdict referred to past efforts to usher in transparency within political parties. It quotes the efforts to bring political parties under the Right to Information regime. The judgment refers to observations made by the CIC in Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. INC and others to describe the position of political parties in democracy.
“It is the political parties that form the government, man the parliament and run the governance of the country. It is therefore, necessary to introduce internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in the working of the political parties. A political party which does not respect democratic principles in its internal working cannot be expected to respect those principles in the governance of the country. It cannot be dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside,” the CIC had said.