How long will politicians be given long rope and allowed to contest elections from jail itself? How long will MP and MLAs be allowed to misbehave in Parliament and State Assemblies and still be given long rope by not taking any action against them? How long will politicians be allowed to become MPs and MLAs even after having not dozens but hundred to two hundred criminal cases pending against them and still allowing them to continue as MPs and MLAs on one pretext or the other even when for other services like becoming a Judge or an IAS or even a police constable there is strict police verification and one case alone even if it turns out to be fake is sufficient to ruin the career of the concerned aspirant?
How long will this worst discrimination between politicians and others be justified on one pretext or the other? How long will tearing of rule books be dismissed off lightly? How long will tearing of any law like the “Farm Law” be allowed to be torn of and that too right inside Parliament or State Assembly and that too by prominent members just like we saw in Delhi and other States?
How long will they be even allowed to indulge in physical violence and still spared from being permanently debarred? Why are they let off by just a reprimand or suspension for a short period of a few days or sometimes even for just a day? Why are they not seriously taken to task ever?
What message is being sent by all this? Does this not send a message that if one is a politician and an MP or MLA, he can hold the law to ransom? For how long will this pathetic state of affairs be allowed to continue?
We all saw how just days after row and being brutally manhandled during a special session of the Legislative Council, the body of the Karnataka Legislative Council’s Deputy Chairman – SL Dharmegowda was found on railway tracks at Gunasagar village of Kadur Taluk in Chikmagalur district during a special session of the Council! Why no action taken against all those who manhandled him? His brother Bhojegowda while speaking to media said that, “There was no personal or financial reasons for him to take this extreme step. He was upset about what had happened [in the council], I and other party leaders had told him not to take things to heart as these are common in politics, but he seems to have taken it very seriously.”
Needless to say, rules need to be enacted now at the earliest because such type of uncivilized behavior has become very common in politics as the brother of the deceased Deputy Chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council very rightly pointed out! This cannot be delayed any further. Supreme Court must now take suo motu action if politicians themselves don’t take any action on this!
Truth be told, it was none other than the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla who has called for a “high-level probe” into the death of SL Dharmegowda. Om Birla rightly said that, “Anguished at the sad news of demise of Deputy Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council, Shri SL Dharmegowda. My condolences to his family. The unfortunate incident in the House, when he was in Chair, is a serious attack on democracy. It is necessary to have a high level probe through an independent agency into his death.”
Bluntly put: Why no action against those who carried out this serious attack on democracy? Just because they are politicians? Are they above the law? Why have they been given such a long rope?
Needless to say, SL Dharmegowda was at the centre of December 15 high voltage drama in the Legislative Council which saw BJP-JDS and Congress members hurling abuses and pushing each other over a row on the no-confidence motion against Chairman K Pratapachandra Shetty. During the ruckus Gowda was pulled down from the Chair (Chairman’s seat) by some Congress legislators who accused him of occupying it as Deputy Chairman against rules as part of BJP’s plan to unseat Shetty who is from the Congress. All rules of decorum were thrown to the winds and he was hackled and mercilessly manhandled! This is what he took straight to his heart but for our politicians this is normal! For how long?
We must ask ourselves: How long will politicians be allowed to have a free run in all spheres of life? How long will politicians be allowed to scream and shout at each other in Parliament and State Assemblies without any fear of facing prosecution as they stand protected by Constitution? How long will they be not held accountable just like others? How long will they be allowed endlessly to decide their own pay package and have a free run?
We must also ask: How long will politicians who rule in the State be allowed to withdraw criminal cases against MPs and MLAs from their own party? Is this not a mockery of the “due process of law” and “equality”? Is this not a blatant violation of right to equality?
We must also not hesitate to ask: Why is it that a convicted politician is barred for a limited time and that too only when he has been convicted for an offence whose punishment is more than two years’ imprisonment? Why is it that for other government jobs like for becoming a civil servant or a Judge or even a police cop or a soldier in the forces do we see that there is a proper police verification and even if someone out of jealousy files a false case still he/she is debarred from getting the concerned job while on the contrary if that same person emulates Phoolan Devi then just like her, he/she still can contest elections even from jail and become an MP and MLA? How can this be wrongly justified as most unfortunately we see right now?
As if this is not enough, it must also be asked: Why is it that politicians alone are given the long rope? Why are they not held accountable for what they do and punished just like we see in case of others? Why are they encouraged to consider themselves as being free to take the law for granted?
Few more troubling questions are: How can it be ignored that the percentage of MPs and MLAs with pending cases are increasingly steadily with time? How long will we keep ignoring this steady rise in percentage? How can it be ignored that many of them are facing very serious charges of murder, rape and what not?
While continuing in the same vein, it must also be asked: How can it be ignored that the Supreme Court said just recently that it was “surprised”, “shocked” and “sorry” to know that over 4,000 criminal cases were pending against sitting and former lawmakers — both members of parliament (MP) and members of legislative assembly (MLA)? How can it be ignored that the Supreme Court said that some of these cases date to as far back as the 1980s? How can such a burning issue be left unattended, unaddressed and play havoc with our democratic system?
It must be mentioned here that what is mentioned above arose when a Bench of Apex Court led by Justice N.V. Ramana was hearing a PIL filed by an eminent and learned advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has sought a lifetime ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases, from contesting elections. It must be also mentioned here that Justice NV Ramana while expressing his serious concern didn’t shy away from remarking during the hearing in simple and straight language that, “So many cases are pending at the initial stage because of influence of legislators (FIRs are not filed) and they (legislators) hang the sword over investigations.”
Let us not shy away from asking: How can it be lightly dismissed that currently there are more than 4,500 cases that are pending against MPs and MLAs all over India? How can it be lightly dismissed that they are allowed to get away easily by terming them as “politically motivated”? How can they who are our law makers be allowed to continue to make a mockery of our democracy by allowing them immunity in spite of facing charge sheet in more than hundreds of criminal cases?
It must be mentioned here that the PIL which eminent lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed seeking to set up exclusive courts in every district to complete the cases pending against politicians within one year and permanently bar convicted politicians from contesting elections, unlike in the present when a convicted politician is barred for a limited time and that too only when he has been convicted for an offence whose punishment is more than two years imprisonment is the crying need of the hour also. It must also be mentioned here that this PIL was filed in August 2016 in the Apex Court and the hearing of which is in the final phase as most of us know too well. It goes without saying that it is likely to give a massive push towards ensuring that politicians with criminal background are debarred from entering politics by contesting elections. But for this to happen it is the Apex Court Bench which is hearing this notable judgment which shall have the final say on this which has to catch the bull by the horns and which shall be decided within a short time in the days ahead! Which side the dice rolls will be decided by this Apex Court Bench and we must hope that we shall not be disappointed this time at last!
In hindsight, we also need to ask: How can this be allowed that Chief Ministers themselves are facing charge sheets in several cases and still be allowed to hold public office? How can it be allowed that even if convicted then they can again come back in active politics within a short span of time and again be back to business as usual? How long will the “Sab Chalta Hain” approach be allowed to carry on for MPs and MLAs?
To be sure, it must also be asked: Why is it that in the latest hearing of the case filed by eminent lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, the Central Government too had shown its “unwillingness” to bar convicted politicians permanently from contesting polls while responding to Ashwini’s argument with regard to why politicians who in various court judgments have been considered as the “supreme public servant” should not be barred forever from contesting elections when a bureaucrat or a Judge was permanently removed from the service if he or she was convicted for an offence.
Adding more to it, it must also be asked: Why is it that an aspirant for a Judge or an IAS or any other government job is promptly barred even if there is one entry in any of the FIR in any police station but the same promptness completely disappears and vanishes in thin air when it comes to MPs and MLAs? It is high time and the time bound trial of pending cases against MPs and MLAs must be taken to their logical conclusion at the earliest! There can be no more dilly-dallying on such s serious issue anymore!
Of course, it is good to see that the Supreme Court Bench also directed the Chief Justices of the respective High Courts to ensure the urgent listings of such cases. But it is also concerning to see that in what can be seen as an unpalatable truth pertaining to the huge power wielded by such tainted politicians, the Supreme Court while hearing the case filed by lawyer Ashwini on 4 November 2020 while quoting from the records that it received from various High Courts lamented that, “The High Court of Kerala has specifically placed on record that the police officials are reluctant to arrest and produce the legislators. The same issue is also being faced by the Calcutta High Court.” It is high time and all this must stop now and for this to happen police must be freed from political clutches and made to function independently and their transfer, posting and promotions should not be in the hands of politicians any longer! This must be now made to happen to preserve our national interests and not political vested interests which till now most unfortunately are having the last laugh! Let’s fervently hope this happens!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh