Supreme Court orders parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates

GS Paper II

Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Mains: Criminalization of Politics

What’s the News?

  • The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.

SC’s Rulings:

  • The information should be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.                            

Criminalization of Politics:

  • It means that the criminals entering the politics and contesting elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature.
  • Criminalisation of politics is the focus of public debate when discussion on electoral reforms takes place.

Factors responsible:

  • The use of muscle power along with money power is a weapon used by all political parties to maximize electoral gains.
  • The Representation of People Act specifies what can disqualify an individual from contesting an election. The law does not bar individuals who have criminal cases pending against them from contesting elections.
  • An individual punished with a jail term of more than two years cannot stand in an election for six years after the jail term has ended. With cases dragging in courts for years, a disqualification based on conviction becomes ineffective.

Need to Decriminalize Politics:

  • The quality of candidates contesting elections becomes important because it is at the root of our governance challenges.
  • Individuals we elect represent us in our legislative institutions and make laws that govern our society.
  • Criminalization of politics is an “extremely disastrous and lamentable situation”, the apex court said this “unsettlingly increasing trend” in the country has the propensity to “send shivers down the spine of a constitutional democracy”.

Challenges:

  • Limited power with election commission: Election Commission has limited powers to legislate on such laws. Public opinion too is not firm on the issue.
  • Politicization of Police:
  • Being charged with a crime, however, is not the same as being guilty. People in public life are vulnerable to false charges as part of smear campaigns against them by rivals.
  • Police forces in India are not independent of political control and doubts hover over the autonomy of investigative agencies as well. This being so, perhaps it should not shock us that the proportion of politicians facing criminal charges is so high.
  • They also engage in corruption and infect the bureaucracy and the police.
  • Lack of Inner-party democracy:
  • While political parties raise concern about candidates with a tainted background contesting elections, none of them come forward to set an example for others when it is time to act.
  • In the present criminal justice system it takes years, probably decades, to complete the trial against a politician.
  • Judicial delays: Those with political influence have taken full advantage by delaying hearings, obtaining repeated adjournments and filing innumerable interlocutory petitions to stall any progress.

Way Forward:

  • Police Reforms: Police reforms are sorely needed. Until we have a law enforcement system that is demonstrably upright and just, parties can get away by telling voters that their candidates are victims of slander.
  • Sensitising the electorate about the role and responsibility of the elected representatives.
  • Political parties will have to be encouraged to have stronger inner party democracy to attract this new set of leaders to join the party.
  • Judicial system will have to be overhauled drastically to ensure that justice is dispensed swiftly in all cases.

MAINS QUESTION:

 “According to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) close to 43% winners of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls have criminal cases against them”. In the light of the above statement analyze the issue of Criminalization of Politics and its link with Independence of Police forces.


USTR takes India off developing country list

GS Paper III

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Mains: Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement

What’s the News?

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has amended lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to CVD investigations.

Background:

  • To harmonise U.S. law with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement, the USTR had, in 1998, come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development.
  • These lists were used to determine whether they were potentially subject to U.S. countervailing duties. The 1998 rule is now “obsolete” as per the USTR notice.

Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement:

  • Export incentives play an important role in encouraging exports from a country. Almost every country provides incentives to its exporters. However, not all types of export incentives are actionable under the SCM Agreement.
  • The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures disciplines the use of subsidies, and it regulates the actions countries can take to counter the effects of subsidi

The USTR criteria:

It used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard:

  • Per capita Gross National Income or GNI
  • Share of world trade
  • Other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.

The de minimis standard is usually a subsidy of 1% or less ad valorem and 2 percent for special cases.

Reasons behind taking off:

  • If a country’s goods constitute less than 3% of all imports of that good into the U.S., it meets the ‘negligible import volumes’ standard.
  • For special cases it is 4%. Imports do not meet the standard, if, individual volumes are less than 3% (special cases: 4%) but the aggregate volume of imports into the U.S. is 7% of all such goods.
  • India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of the global trade, despite having less than $12, 375 GNI.
  • India was taken off the list also because — like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa — it is part of the G20.
  • Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership, G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.

Conclusion:

  • It makes U.S easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.
  • The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries.