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Before jumping into what Criminalization of Politics means, let me tell you a short story.

There was a man named Sampatlal in a village called Sattupur who was well known and famous among villagers for his muscle power as he believed in talking with arms rather than his mouth. So, when anyone used to get into trouble, they asked Sampatlal to handle their matter. And in this way, Sampatlal handled others’ matters which sometimes ended in exchanging blows and few times in gruesome murders.

Now, the time has come for the villagers to return the help to Sampatlal for whatever he did to them. It was the time for the elections, and most villagers decided to vote for Sampatlal as a form of obligation for his help. The remaining people voted for him either on the basis of caste or money power he had. In this way, Sampatlal became the village head and then he gradually rose to the power of highly influential politician of his state.

Now, you would ask, how could he become a politician even after committing gruesome crimes such as murder. The answer to this question is: He never got convicted for his crimes as he had one or another group of villagers on his side. And we in India do not have any law that prevents individual from contesting elections while he is put on trials.

This is the story of most of the villages, cities and states of India, where we ourselves, knowingly or unknowingly elect criminals as our representatives. This is exactly what it means to criminalize politics. To elect someone with a criminal background as your representative in politics.


In simple words, Criminalization of politics means the increasing involvement of individuals with criminal background into politics. It also means electing criminals as our political representatives.


While talking about crime and corruption pervading into current society, we should not forget about its roots. During the times of Chanakya, he talked about the prevailing corruption in the polity of his times. He also talked about the ways and measures to counter the situation. Now, it should be noted that crime does not only involve physical hurt, it can be in the form of emotional or financial degradation too.

Outside of India, Plato was concerned about the corruption in his state polity and increasing corruption among ruling class and hence he recommended the communism for the ruling class where he recommended them to abstain from holding any form of private property and family of their own.

Now, coming back to India, lets now talk about when did this wave of criminalization of politics actually started.

As per the sources, the real wave or the normalization of criminalization of politics actually took place somewhere between 1970s. It was the time when the nexus between bureaucracy and politics began growing, leading to the increasing involvement of criminals into Indian polity.


The criminalization of politics is gradually spreading its roots from the legislature to executive and then finally into judiciary.

As per the report of Association for Democratic reforms, the proportion of MPs having criminal records stood at almost 30% in 2009 elections. It increased to 34% in the 2014 elections. And the issue exacerbated more in the 2019 elections where 43% of newly elected MPs had history of criminal charges against them, a 26% increase as compared to the election of the year 2014 and a huge 109% increase with respect to 2009 elections.

In 2019, 29% of all the cases were related to heinous crimes such as rape and murder charges. It sadly depicts the kind of person leading the already deteriorated polity of India.

Now, you might be thinking of the reasons why people must be electing such individuals into such power positions. Isn't there any law to prevent it?

There are! let us look at them one by one.


  • With the objective to identify the extent of criminalization in the Indian polity, the Vohra committee on “Criminalization of Politics” was constituted which recommended ways to deal with this menace. The committee also explained how criminal gangs enjoyed political protection from their acquaintances and how over the years, this nexus has helped criminals pave their way into local bodies, State assemblies and also in Parliament.
  • This report also called for the setting up of Intelligence agencies especially to deal with such issues in order to curb them in the long run.
  • As per section 4A of the conduct of election rules, 1961, the compulsory affidavit must be filed by each contesting candidate and it should consist:
    A) The proof if the candidate has been accused of an offence punishable for two or more imprisonment, in any pending case where charges have been made against that individual by the court.
    B) The case where conviction is involved for the offence other than mentioned under Section 8 of the Representation of the people act, 1951, with the imprisonment term of one or more years.

On the request of the Supreme court, the Election Commission issued an order stating that, as per Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act, a person providing incorrect information or withholding any information will be liable to a maximum six months of imprisonment, or fine, or both.

The Supreme Court in Justices Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat ordered political parties to disclose following information of the person standing in election:

Information to be disclosed by the candidate.

  • The criminal accusations against the candidate.
  • How many cases are charged against that candidate and the nature of the crimes involved.
  • Details of cases, case number and name of the court in which the case is pending.
  • The stage of the criminal case: FIR, Investigation, Chargesheet or trial.
  • Reason for not choosing another candidate with no criminal charges. (Note: “Winnability” will not be considered as the only reason for his/her choice.)

The information regarding charges need to be uploaded on the following platforms:

  • Available social media platforms of the contesting party such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Any national newspaper.
  • Official website of the party.
  • Any local vernacular newspaper.

A report of compliance of the said candidate should be submitted by the political party to the Election Commission within 72 hours. In case of the failure of doing so, the action of the political party shall be considered as contempt of court where the case will file on the name of the president of that party.


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As per section 8 of the Representation of People Act, individuals imprisoned for more than 2 years cannot participate in an election for the next 6 years after completing their jail term. But, here’s a catch, this section is not applicable to the candidates facing trial no matter how severe their crime is. And this leaves a great void in the act as cases are dragged for years in the country like India.

Despite having so many provisions against it, why is criminalization of politics going on increasing over the years? Let us now look at its reasons.


  • Nexus between politicians and bureaucracy: During the era of 1970s, the nexus between politicians and bureaucrats is increasing gradually. When the political party a bureaucrat is aligned with is in power, he gets the posting of his choice and in return, bureaucrats implement the partisan agenda of the ruling party on the ground.
  • Use of muscle and money power: Politicians and their respective political parties spend huge amounts of money on buying the votes in their constituency. This particularly happens when the contesting candidate has his/her strong hold over their constituency in terms of their popularity or notoriety. There are high chances of such people buying votes either by giving money or through intimidations. Sometimes, people have no choice but to choose a criminal as all the contesting candidates turn out to be criminals.
  • Lack of law enforcement: There are several laws and provisions to curb this menace but lack of enforcement or power imbalance leads to inefficiency of such laws. As a result, such laws prevail only on papers and not on the floor of reality.
  • Caste/Religion politics: The provision to publish criminal records may not be as effective as it is thought to be as the majority of voters vote for candidates belonging to the same caste as theirs. In such cases, religion also plays a great role in exacerbating this situation.
  • Corruption: Some people have criminal charges against them even before contesting elections and some get charges on their name after being elected. This corruption in polity further deteriorates the existing politics.
  • Lack of political will: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar has rightly said, “However good a constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good.” The lack of political will to implement and follow the guidelines in this case proves to be the major roadblock in fighting this issue.

After getting acquainted with causes, let us now look at the overall effect it has on the Indian society/Polity


  • Against the principle of free and fair elections: Free and fair elections are considered as the bedrock of any thriving democracy. The criminalization of politics limits the choice of voters either by buying votes or by persuading them to vote for the candidate with criminal charges in the name of caste or religion.

  • Negatively affects the governance of the country: When we elevate a law breaker (a criminal) to a position of law-maker (Legislature), it ultimately affects the kind of polity we get in. It also hampers the overall governance of that particular area and sets a bad precedence for others too.

  • Tainting the image of Indian bureaucracy: When the nexus between politics and bureaucracy comes to fore, people lose their trust from the bureaucracy. It negatively affects the bureaucrats who work for the overall good of society and get only shame in return. It discourages individuals from trusting bureaucracy.

  • Erosion of trust in Democracy: Majority of people want a good leader to lead the and democracy give this freedom to every voter to choose this. But seeing criminals in power positions greatly discourages genuine citizens who see democracy as a way to the progressive country.

  • Discourages good and deserving individuals from standing in elections: When money and muscle power becomes the deciding factor in winning elections, when people see how dirty the politics get, how there is a nexus between different politicians and how good ones are thrown out of the power easily, it discourages individuals with real and genuine interests from taking part in elections. They just avoid getting into it.

  • Lowers the reputation in international politics: Being one of the largest democracies in the whole world, the eyes of all the other countries stay on India’s performance in democracy. Seeing large number of criminals in power negatively affects the image of our country in world politics.


  • Apply suggestions by committees: Various committees such as Dinesh Goswami committee and Indrajeet committee have recommended in favor of state funding of elections. According to them, this will curb the black money in a great way and will go a long way in curbing the criminalization of politics in our country.
  • Informed, Educated and Vigilant voters: It must be noted that it is voters who decide their fate by electing criminals as their representative. In some cases, they do it deliberately and in some cases, they act out of ignorance. Hence there is the need for proper voter education. Voters also need to be vigilant to not get blown away with fake promises or bundles of money.
  • Need to strengthen the Election Commission: Regulating the affairs related to political parties and elections is in the hands of the Election Commission. Hence, it is essential to bestow more powers to EIC to function well as a “Watchdog of Indian Democracy.”
  • Proper judiciary intervention: As we have seen, how the reluctance of behalf of political parties is ultimately leading to the increasing case of criminalization. It is now high time for the judiciary to play a proactive role and bring some strict measures and rules against this issue.


Our country is grappling with serious issues such as unemployment, poverty, internal conflicts, riots and various other social, economic, and international issues. As politics of the country decides the fate of other important institutions such as bureaucracy, business, public sectors, media and civil society, it is the urgent need of the hour to remove criminals from this arena.

Criminalization of politics also badly affects the prevailing governance of the country. It shatters the faith citizens have in democracy and its power to shape a country for the good.

The solutions we mentioned above may not prove effective in removing the criminalization of politics all at once. But it is necessary to take small and gradual steps in the right direction, no matter how inefficient its result turns out to be.

At last, all the judgements passed in this case were the result of the collective efforts of citizens who were vigilant. By keeping this in mind, we need to consider ourselves as responsible for this predicament as we consider politicians and political party to be. As we all know,

“Change comes with taking accountability, not by passing blame on one another.”

And remember, We are equally responsible towards the criminalization of politics as we think Sampatlal is!

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