DMPQ. Discuss how Supreme Court’s recent judgment on criminalisation in politics may have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy.

February 2020 Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politics may have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy. It will first be implemented in the coming Bihar elections in October 2020. The Court has asked the political parties to state “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.”

We are in the midst of more immediate crises — the COVID-19 outbreak, the economic recession due to the lockdown, the migrant workers crisis, small businesses shutting down in many sectors, massive unemployment, a highly stressed banking and financial sector, and now the conflict with China. Added to this is an ever-present silent crisis: the steady deterioration in politics over decades, with the decline accelerating in the past 16 years. As politics dominates the bureaucracy, and reins in business, civil society and the media, we need governance that is free of the “criminal” virus. Capability is not sufficient. The intent to do public service is also required. The British were capable, but we still did not want them. Today, it is not about any party, it is about the political system.

The result has been that we get bad governance, and survey after survey show that people around the country are unhappy with the quality of governance. Given limited choices, they vote as best as they can. But no matter how many parties are changed, governance does not really improve, a few exceptions apart. Using money power to buy MLAs and MPs sometimes makes a mockery of election outcomes. Meanwhile, electoral bonds bring secrecy back into political funding.

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