Daily Answer Writing
12 April 2021

Q) What are the causes behind political violence in India? How effective have the Representation of People's act been in curbing the menace of violence in electoral politics? (250 Words)

Source: <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/wrong-shots-the-hindu-editorial-on-west-bengal-poll-violence/article34296821.ece>

GS 2: Representation of People's act

Approach Answer:

Introduction: Violence in Politics in India takes many forms such as political killings, threats to opposition leaders and party workers. During the time of elections these can culminate into prevention of a candidate from filing nomination, prevention from campaigning, booth capturing, preventing voters from voting etc. Thus this is a great threat to Indian democracy.

 

The causes behind Political violence in India are:

               1. Vote Bank: Majority of voters are Maneuverable. Criminals can  manoeuvre/purchase voters easily.

               2. Denial of Justice: Since rule of Law is weakly enforced and pendency of cases remain high. Criminal reputation is perceived as an asset.

               3. Winnability matters more: Often Winnability trumps over other considerations for most of the Political parties.

               4. Divisive politics of Identity: a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances.

               5. Use of crime as Political Capital:  Violence is used as a type of currency used to mobilize voters or accomplish other political goals such as threatening and withdrawal of political opponents.

               6. Weak law and order situation: This allows easy criminalization of politics.

 

Provisions of Representation of People's act, 1951 regarding violence(apart from the separate provisions of IPC, which may invite greater punishment):

               1. Disqualification: A person can be disqualified for six year after the completion of imprisonment  in criminal cases with more than two year sentence or where he/she is found guilty of promoting enmity, promoting untouchability, terrorist activity, money laundering, drug trafficking etc. (Section 8)

               2. Hate speeches: Promoting enmity during elections  is punishable with imprisonment of up to 3 years. (Section 123)

               3. No meeting in the eve of voting: The political parties cannot address any public meeting 48 hours prior to the voting. (Section 126)

               4. Violence in election Meeting: Police can arrest any person without warrant if it or the organizers of any meeting of political character suspect that person of creating nuisance. (Section  128)

               5. Penalty for disorderly conduct at polling station: A person cannot shout or use megaphone or cause annoyance to persons visiting the polling station. If the person re-enters even after putting a ban on him/her is liable for 3 months jail. (Section 131)

               6. Using arms in or near polling station: Such a person can be imprisoned for a term up to two years including confiscation of the Arms license. (Section 134B)

               7. Provisions against booth capturing: This invites a punishment of 1 to 3 years of jail with fine. Illegal possession of ballot papers or EVMs too is a punishable offence with up to 1 year of jail. (Section 135 and 135A)

 

Limitations of the RPA, 1951:

               1. Limited powers of Election Commission: The EC can only collect evidence and have powers of a civil court. It has to eventually forward the case to the magistrate having jurisdiction under the Criminal Procedure Code.

               2. Quantum of punishment is less: Maximum punishment unless CrPC applies is just 3 years.

               3. Depends on the efficiency of Criminal justice system of the area: The final sentence depends on the efficiency of Police to investigate and speed of trial.

               4. Inefficiency in the Disqualification procedure: The cases of disqualification of candidature takes time. Often next elections arrive before the disqualification for the previous elections.

              

Conclusion: Thus the Representation of People act, 1951 is as efficient as the criminal justice system of the country. In this regard it becomes necessary to bring Police and Judicial reforms. Along with this there is a need to reconsider the quantum of punishment given in RPA, 1951 for the electoral malpractices.

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