Politicians, police and criminal nexus : greatest threat to the rule of law in india
A symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship develops between these three that is politicians, police and criminal elements when the politician reaches a particular stature and develops a clout, he dictates terms to Police and Bureaucracy much to the delight of the criminal elements. The bonds become stronger and either finds it difficult to survive without the help of the other and the point of no return is reached. The prevailing trend is spreading like cancer. It is nullifying all the constitutional safeguards of democracy; that is, it is spoiling bureaucracy by making it partial; it thwarts press; and even threatens judiciary; and thus is destroying the foundation of democracy. So the people should wake up at once and force the political parties to mend their ways. If our Democracy is to survive the onslaught of criminal elements - the organised crime - on the system, there is a need to take urgent and decisive steps. Do we have the political will to do so? Can Indian public be roused to demand stern action against this nexus?
In the era of modernization and industrialization, it's indeed a story state of affair to see the rise of such a nexus which is an irony to the democracy of our country. The nexus between Politicians and Criminal elements and the proliferation of criminal gangs under political patronage has come before the eyes of people time and again. Lack of seriousness to tackle this menace has been displayed by the Government of India in nominating Union Home Secretary as the Chairman of the nodal agency and the chiefs of Intelligence agencies as members.Politicians, devoid of a record of service, sacrifice and a mass base, need money and muscle power to keep their positions of power and to bludgeon their constituency into submission. Criminal elements thrive on wrongdoings and they need someone to keep the police away from their back and heels. They also need the co-operation of Bureaucracy to regularise their illegal activities. Personnel of Police and Bureaucracy need political patronage to have comfortable postings and smooth advancement in career. As a result of this, a symbiotic relationship develops between these three. Organised crime is opposed to all values cherished by a liberal Democracy. Its activities deny the basic Human Rights to the “have not's” and undermines the principle of rule of law and equality before law. It vitiates the electoral process by denying the opportunities to many to exercise their franchise freely. It undermines the rights of women, children, labor and others.
The number of political parties in India has been phenomenally increasing. The mushroom growth of political parties is not the result of improvement in political standard; nor is it because more qualified and service-minded persons are entering the field of politics, determined to serve the country and its people. In all political parties, the rowdies are given red-carpeted welcome; because their ‘services' are needed to these parties frequently for carrying on unlawful activities during thebandhs,strikes, rallies etc., organized by them. When such criminals become political leaders, they seek to achieve whatever they want without caring for rules and regulations; they would not hesitate to adopt criminal methods for attaining their goals; whether it is winning an election or elimination of rivals. For these hard core criminals, the offences like threatening officials, kidnapping and even murder do not appear bad.
The recent issue of the infamous Radia tapes shows us a clear-cut picture of the nexus between the politicians, industrialists and bureaucrats. Even though there is a claim of right to privacy being violated but such conversations do not fall under a private sphere when it affects the public domain. No doubt this situation has raised some prickly issues for the courts and the media as the rule of law stands to be violated. These people must know where privacy ends and public interest begins. Top Journalists, politicians and other powerbrokers are found to be in such a nexus.
The politicians are thriving today on the basis of muscle power provided by criminals. The common people who constitute the voters are in most cases too reluctant to take measures that would curtail the criminal activities. Once the political aspect joins the criminal elements the nexus becomes extremely dangerous. Many of politicians chose muscle power to gain vote bank in the country, and they apply the assumption that, if we are unable to bring faith in the community then we can generate fear or threat to get the power in the form of election.
Independence has taken place through a two-stage process. The first stage was the corrupting of the institutions and the second stage was the institutionalization of corruption. As we look at the corruption scene today, we find that we have reached this stage because the corrupting of the institutions in turn has finally led to the institutionalization of corruption. The failure to deal with corruption has bred contempt for the law. When there is contempt for the law and this is combined with the criminalization of politics, corruption flourishes.
The police-politician-criminal nexus can embolden the criminal elements. Their activities can create an environment of lawlessness, where influential and rich people violate the law with impunity. The police is not the only component of the criminal justice system that has suffered because of this nexus. In fact, the entire criminal justice system is under strain. Not all crimes are being registered and those registered are not being properly investigated; and even out of those charge-sheeted, very few are ending in conviction. The conviction rate in case of heinous crimes is steadily falling. In some North-Eastern states it has reached almost zero level, where the police have stopped even submitting the charge sheets in the insurgency-related cases. When the fear of legal punishment disappears, organised crime finds it convenient to spread its tentacles. Extortion and payment of the so-called ‘protection money' is more widespread than we would like to believe. According to some reports, direct extortion from the government funds runs into hundreds of crores of rupees. Many of the insurgent and militant groups are not driven by ideology, but by sheer greed. Money power is a bigger motivating factor than ideology. Vested interests have developed around these groups with active connivance of corrupt politicians, police officers and civil servants. Some politicians even take their assistance during election times. They have to return their favors when they come to power. This mutually beneficial relationship has seriously damaged the quality of governance in the interior areas. The real losers are the people. The development process gets seriously hampered in a violent environment. When large development funds are siphoned out by this unholy alliance between the criminal and corrupt forces, even the delivery of the most basic services like water, power, healthcare, education and communications becomes a stupendous task.
A vicious circle starts. The deprived and the marginalised sections of the society, unable to survive in the present system, get alienated. The militant and extremist forces thrive in this environment. The rise of Left extremism is more due to these compulsions than on ideological grounds. There are media reports about the carving out of a corridor by the Left extremist forces from Nepal to Tamil Nadu. Even if there is no truth in these reports, the involvement of hostile external forces in support of the Left extremist forces to destabilise the country cannot be ruled out.
In India on the other hand, while the principle of judicial independence is accepted legally, there is no implementation. For instance, while the Criminal Procedure Code was rewritten in 1973 with the express intention that the judiciary be severed from other parts of the government, the AHRC has constantly pointed to the fact that in West Bengal the lower judiciary in particular is largely controlled by the police. In fact, the police there control almost all aspects of criminal proceedings, whether it is arrest, conviction, imprisonment or death. Numerous urgent appeals taken up by the AHRC clearly show the power held by the police, and their complete disregard for the institutional independence of the judicial and prosecution mechanisms
We boast of being the largest democracy in the world. We were aware of the nexus between the politicians and the criminals for a long time. Now emboldened by the combined money power and the muscle power and the respects a politician commands, the criminals themselves are contesting elections! Our judiciary has become a mute spectator unable to rein in them since a person is considered innocent until proved otherwise. What is the panacea for this malady?
The ‘laid-back' attitude of the senior officers and politicization of the police administration are two main causes of the apathy that has crept into the police over a period of time. Shorn of pride and commitment to their job, most police officers are content to serve their political masters. In the process, the enforcers of the rule of law are frequently seen to be on the side of the violators of law.The recent terrorist attack in Mumbai has exposed some glaring loopholes in our security apparatus. Arbitrary interference in day-to-day functioning has played havoc with its organization and morale. The command and control in this uniformed disciplined force is under great stress. The ruling parties are directly interfering in their recruitment, posting, transfer and promotions. Beholden to their political masters, the police take less interest in the difficult task of enforcing the rule of law and spend more time in serving their benefactors. Persons with political influence and money have little difficulty in manipulating the police for their own selfish ends. Fear of legal punishment for these persons has virtually disappeared. It is not a coincidence that almost all political parties resist police reforms on one pretext or the other. They not only use and misuse the police for party purposes, they manipulate it for all sorts of usavoury ends. Corruption and nepotism are the order of the day. The police is not allowed to function in a manner that would instill a feeling of confidence among the people. The government has appointed one commission after another, but their reports have only gathered dust in the government archives for the last fifty years. The National Police Commission (NPC) submitted its last report in 1981, but till date no central government has been willing to implement any of its major recommendations. The political rulers should know that they have no role in day-to-day functioning of the police. There is no place for arbitrary and malafide intervention in the police administration. There are well-set rules notified in the police manuals by state governments about postings, transfers and promotions of officers, but they are being blatantly flouted by many persons in high authority.
Police postings cannot be made subject of political patronage as is the case today. The politicians are interfering even in the investigation of crimes. In important cases, it is they who decide who should be arrested and who not. They decide which complaint should be registered and investigated. Even after a case charge-sheet is submitted in the court, it is not free from political interference. There is pressure not only in the appointment of the senior prosecuting lawyer, but undue interest in how the case is presented in court. There are instances when the prosecution made a complete turnaround in its arguments after a new government at the Centre or the state took office. The cases under trial in the court are often not properly argued by the prosecution because of directions from the new dispensation. Even the premier investigation agency of the country, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is not free from such allegations.
The much needed reforms in the police and criminal justice system can no longer be postponed. Putting police reforms on fast-track could be a fitting reply to the ever-increasing number of policemen who have lost their lives in fighting terrorists. There is a danger of the whole system collapsing unless immediate steps are taken to bring back credibility to the system in the eyes of the people. Essential reforms for effective policing can be divided in three parts: systemic, personnel, and accountability. They include the elimination of all type of arbitrary and undue external interference in police functioning; improvement in recruitment procedures, training, working and living conditions, equipment, leadership and supervision; but most importantly, to ensure that the police officers are accountable to the Constitution and the people of the country.
As a first step, all National political parties in India should realise the threat to the foundations of democracy from organised crime. Fighting the nexus between the politicians and criminal elements should become a National agenda transcending party politics. Conscious efforts should be made by all parties to prevent infiltration of criminal elements in their ranks. They should lend their support to amend the Representation of People's Act to deny opportunities to people with criminal records of moral turpitude and violence, to contest the elections. They should also lend support to pass legislation to deal firmly with organised crime.
Existing criminal laws are woefully inadequate to deal with various manifestations of organised crime. There is need for a special legislation - like other countries - to deal with this menace. We need special courts and suitable modifications in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Acts to make justice swifter. A stitch in time saves nine. The inability of the criminal justice system to deal firmly with infractions like rowdyism, gambling, prostitution, drugs lead to development of organised crime. Yesterday's petty criminals are today's dons. Hence, the need to nip the budding criminal in early stages.
Organised crime treats the criminal justice system with contempt and exploits the loopholes in law. A proactive, public spirited judiciary can change this scenario. Laws enacted to deal with organised crime should be implemented in spirit and criminal elements should not be allowed to get away due to narrow interpretations of the letter of law. For example, while the slogan, ‘Bail is a right ' may be commendable in respect of law abiding citizens, its denial to a member of the organised crime prevents many a crime and serves a social purpose. Since granting of bail is the discretion of the judiciary, it should be exercised in the larger interests of society. Reestablishment of the Rule of Law and its majesty is a sure way of decimating the organised crime. Members of the public and non-governmental organisations can play a vital role in this sphere.
Police, who are the gate keepers of the mighty criminal justice system and the Bureaucracy, who are the dispensers of welfare measures to the society, are at the mercy of politicians for their survival. Politician's displeasure bring down on them harassment like frequent transfers and disruption in career advancement. Hence, they quietly tow the line of politicians. Since Police and Bureaucracy act as catalysts for the growth of the nexus between the politician and criminal elements, it is necessary to liberate them. To make the Police and Bureaucracy people oriented and act without fear or favour, control of politicians over them should be carefully structured. The recommendations of the National Police Commission to establish a State Security Commission should be vigorously implemented. Similarly, there is need to establish an autonomous State Administrative Commission.
Activities of organised crime transcend State and National boundaries and are illegal. To deal with them effectively and bring them to book, professional expertise of a high order in detection, investigation and application of science and technology are called for. Central Bureau of Investigation possess all these. As part of Interpol network, it has access to the resources of National Police agencies all over the world. It has got the reputation for impartiality and integrity. It is in the fitness of things that the CBI should be made the Nodal agency and the clearing house for all information and intelligence on organised crime. A separate wing styled asAnti-Organised Crime Division should be opened in the CBI with an additional Director as its head. This division should have officers in all Metropolises and cities known for the activities of organised crime and also in Centres like DUBAI abroad. Its members should be deputed to visit Italy, U.S.A., France and other countries which have well established organised crime network and study the work of Law Enforcement Agencies there.
To take head on the nexus between politicians and criminal elements, moral courage and vision is needed. It is sad, since 1967 and particularly after 1977, the Indian National Congress has allowed itself to be dominated by lumpen elements. Their success at the grass roots level had spurred other parties, with little or no hope of coming to power, to refine the strategy. This has resulted in the criminalisation of political process. Political parties are unable to control the geni let loose by themselves. Tandoori Murder, finding of dead body in M.P's quarter, procurement of a Diplomatic Passport for financial consideration, are all becoming a daily affair. These undermine the credibility of the democratic process, making the youth to embrace politically violent movements. Political sagacity demands that our leaders should cry a halt to this downward trend in ethics of politics. Leaders of Nineteenth Century paved the way for Indian Democracy in the Twentieth Century. What will be the claim of our present day leaders and how will they be remembered in the twenty first century? - Defenders and preservers of Democratic values or as harbingers of lumpenisation of political process? There is yet time to avert an adverse verdict of history. Without wasting time, let us act decisively.