New Delhi: Cases related to crimes against women are pending against 48 sitting legislators, three of whom have unresolved charges of rape against them, says a report released amid a national reckoning over the difficult path to justice for women and girls as reflected in the Kathua and Unnao rape cases.
Among the 48 legislators, three are currently members of Parliament (MPs) while the rest are MLAs in state assemblies across the country, according to the report released on Thursday by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms.
The findings are based on an analysis of nearly 4,800-odd election affidavits, including 768 belonging to MPs from both houses of Parliament and 4,077 members of state legislative assemblies.
The total number of candidates (winners as well as losers) who were facing similar charges but were still given tickets in various elections over the past five years is even higher at 327 among registered parties alone.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backed the highest number of such candidates, with 47 of its candidates declaring past cases of crimes against women in their affidavit.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) comes second with 35 candidates and the Congress third with 24 such candidates.
The BJP, which has numerical superiority in many state assemblies, also has the highest number of sitting legislators with pending charges under sections relating to crimes against women, as 12 of its MPs/MLAs face such cases, the ADR report said.
The second and third spots are held by the Shiv Sena (7) and the All India Trinamool Congress (6), respectively.
The findings indicate that all major parties give tickets to candidates with cases of crime against women and therefore hinder the safety and dignity of women as citizens, the report said. “Political parties have been, in a way, abetting to circumstances that lead to such events that they so easily condemn in Parliament," the report added.
While crimes involving women have drawn renewed attention of late, the issue of candidates with pending criminal charges contesting and winning elections in India has a long history. The worrying change, however, is that more such candidates appear to be emerging victorious in elections.
In his book When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, Milan Vaishnav writes that in contexts where the rule of law is weakly enforced and social divisions are rampant, a candidate’s criminal reputation could be perceived as an asset.
Looking at election results between 2004 and 2013 (including state assemblies, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha elections), the author writes that the probability of a candidate winning elections is 7% if he has no cases against him, it increases to 19% with at least one case, and 25% if he/she has at least one serious case.
According to the book, in 2004 the percentage of MPs with criminal cases was 24% and those with serious cases was 12%. By 2014 the numbers rose to 34% and 21%, respectively.