Hyderabad: In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s order to all political parties to publish criminal records of all their candidates in local newspapers, official websites, and social media handles, it was learned that of the 119 MLAs who were elected to power in 2018 in Telangana, 67 (61%) have criminal cases booked against them. While three TRS legislators, B. Shankar Nayak, T. Harish Rao, Kancharla Bhupal Reddy, are facing cases for crimes against women.

A Bench comprising Justice R.F Nariman and Ravindra, on 13 February, passed the order following petitions filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and Rambabu Singh Thakur. They had complained that the Election Commission had failed to comply with the directions laid down by the Constitution Bench in 2018 regarding the decriminalization of politics.

TRS MLA Shankar Nayak was arrested for misbehaving with a woman IAS officer during a government programme. The MLA reportedly grabbed the Collector’s arm and the official could be seen struggling to get out of his grip. The Mahabubabad town police registered a case against Nayak under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). Subsequently, Nayak was arrested but later released on bail.

According to the law, if convicted under Section 354 a person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

M. Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of Forum for Good Governance, said there is a growing disenchantment with the way cases are being handled in India. Mr Reddy told NewsMeter, “If people are celebrating the encounter of Disha’s rapists, that’s because they are angry and frustrated with the system. They have lost hope in it.”

The government must make serious efforts to regain people’s faith in the system, he said. “What we need is an effort to stop such incidents by speeding judicial processes. But that’s not happening. We need speedy trials and imposition of the sentence upon the accused in the shortest possible time.”

In 2014, the number of Telangana MLAs who declared criminal cases was 46. It went up to 67 in the 2018 Assembly.

Parliamentarians with criminal history

Of the 17 Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana, TRS parliamentarian from Khammam, Nama Nageswara Rao, is accused of outraging the modesty of women. Among all the Lok Sabha members across the country, 19 MPs have declared cases related to crimes against women.
According to an ADR report, the BJP has the highest number of MPs and MLAs with charges of crimes against women. Almost 30 per cent of them face serious charges like rape, murder, and kidnapping. At 116, the BJP also has the highest number of MPs with criminal cases. The Congress has 29 such MPs and the JDU 13.

Navkiran Singh, a senior human rights lawyer, said, “Data shows that people who are given the death sentences are either poor or from the minority group. Even in the case of extra-judicial killing, they could be easily killed for the same reason. All decisions in such rape cases are politically oriented, and poor people, who have zero influence, face the brunt. So, the whole system is prejudiced towards the underprivileged.”

For quick disposal of cases against MPs and MLAs, the Supreme Court in 2017 had asked the government to set up fast-track courts. Accordingly, Telangana had established a special court. After continuous persuasion from social activists, a judge has been posted in the court but is yet to get sufficient permanent staff members. Also, cases pending in other courts are yet to be transferred to this special court.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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