Sucheta Dalal :
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You are here: Home » Full Speech of Ajit Ranade


Ajit Ranade explained the long legal battle that the Action for Democratic Rights (ADR) had to fight to create a situation where a candidate with a criminal record has to declare it in an affidavit. He said, “We started 10 years ago and this legal fight was against the Election Commission demanding that it must be made mandatory to disclose the criminal background and financial details of a candidate through an affidavit. The question is why an affidavit? After all, you already know whether a person standing for an election is a goon or not. Our point was that if you accuse a person of being a goon it could attract libel or defamation charges, but when a person declares criminal charges against him in an affidavit, it becomes a part of his public record”.
Ranade talked about how the government of India first appealed against a judgement that had gone in ADR’s favour and even after it was defeated in the Supreme Court it attempted to pass an ordinance to nullify the court ruling.
After that battle was won in 2003, every candidate has to file an affidavit declaring his/her financial details, assets and liabilities but, most importantly, whether there are any criminal cases pending against him/her.
According to Ranade, we already have a law which disqualifies you from standing for elections if you are convicted for a crime. The problem is that people never get convicted and if they are, they can appeal in the higher courts and it takes nearly 20 years for a final verdict; by then they have served two or three terms in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. He said, “filing an affidavit is a secret Brahma astra because filing a false affidavit is a major crime in this country and can put you in jail for minimum two years. So not only do the affidavits disclose whether there are any criminal cases against the candidates but the moment you can prove it is a false affidavit, you can pull the candidate to the court”. Falsification of affidavits, if it happens, is an all new astra that citizens have and can land a candidate in jail and even disqualify him/her from standing for an election.
Ranade reported several small stories of success that are not very well known. For instance, in February 2005 there was an assembly election in Bihar where there were three major factions fighting for power -- Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar. There was no clear winner leading to a hung assembly and a re-election for the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. In the heat of campaigning for the second time Mr. Nitish Kumar promised that he would not have a single minister with a criminal record. Indeed that has been the case; the Bihar cabinet does not have a single minister with a criminal record. This is not a small thing in a state like Bihar.
Ranade said, “People who have a criminal background are welcome to serve the people but the representatives that we elect to our Assembly or to Parliament cannot have a criminal record. As alert citizens we can compare the difference in assets and liabilities of the candidates from last elections to the forthcoming elections. We can also keep a track of their criminal record. ADR has observed that the number of people with a criminal background who are filing nominations has gone down significantly. There have also been instances where Mainstream parties have refused tickets to people with a criminal background. All this has put pressure on candidates to try and clear their names from court cases.
Ranade concluded by urging people to exercise their right to vote. He said, “in India, 85% of the people between 18 and 23 do not vote. Ours is a young nation and a very large percentage of its population does not vote. In Mumbai only 40% of the people voted last time—60% did not vote.
A single vote can sometimes make all the difference. For example, P.C.Joshi of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee lost the Chief Minister’s post by just one single vote. So I appeal to all of you firstly to go out to vote. Let us at least increase the voting percentage in Mumbai to fifty percent. Secondly think about whom you are going to vote. There is a saying in India that “Voters do not think and the Thinkers do not vote. Let us not allow that to happen”

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