To break the nexus of crime and politics in India, we should not wait until the conviction of accused candidates. Other solutions exist.
With less than 24 hours to go for the assembly elections in the state of Karnataka, the topic of criminal backgrounds of various candidates is back in focus. A recent report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) reveals that 391 of the 2655 candidates face criminal charges, and 254 of these face charges of a serious nature. All three major parties, namely BJP, Congress and JDS, have such candidates on their party tickets.
Of course, a criminal complaint is not proof of guilt. The Representation of the Peoples Act (RPA), 1951 states that a person cannot be debarred from contesting elections nor expelled from the parliament or legislative assembly unless s/he is convicted with a jail term of two years or more. However, there are multiple stages between filing of a criminal complaint and a court judgment that merit consideration.
After a criminal complaint is filed, usually in the form of an FIR with the police, there are at least three stages before a court of law begins the hearings. First comes the investigation conducted by the police or other competent authorities, during which they evaluate the merits of the complaints and collect evidence. Next, the investigating authority files a chargesheet with the court. Third, the court studies the chargesheet and appropriately frames charges against the accused. It is only then that the prosecution and defense lawyers begin arguing the case before a judge.