The political class ~ regardless of party affiliation ~ ought to feel thoroughly ashamed of itself in the wake of the apex court virtually directing the Central government to set up special courts to expeditiously process criminal cases pending against those who sought election to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas three years ago.

That their Lordships said they were doing so “in national interest” only underscores the gravity of a long-festering sore that all governments deprecate but do little about. The Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha was in no mood to permit any further leeway, and was firm when telling the Additional Solicitor General that by December 13 the government should come up with a detailed scheme for setting up the courts ~ the Bench offered to organise the funding if the ministry had difficulty doing so ~ as well as to inform it of the progress made in implementing earlier orders aimed at breaking the politician-criminal nexus. Some cases had been pending for decades, which meant a person could have more than a couple of ministerial terms before “the law caught up with him”.

The figure of 1,581 cases about which the court was seeking information is possibly a conservative one: it pertains only to cases “admitted” by candidates in affidavits filed when seeking election to Parliament and eight Assemblies in 2014.

There could be other cases not “admitted”, more than eight Assemblies function, and there would be no dearth of politicians who have opted out of the electoral fray. Cleansing the system could, therefore, require more than special courts or any action the Election Commission might take. Statistics only serve to confirm the popular perception of politics being “the last refuge of scoundrels”, which helps explain why few otherwise decent persons opt for what is erroneously dubbed “public life”.

There is, alas, only a certain amount that the judiciary and EC can do to exorcise rotten eggs or black sheep from public life. Political parties could play a more positive role by not admitting dubious persons into their ranks, and denying them electoral tickets. It would also help if the police and other agencies were encouraged to defy/resist political pressure ~ if it had no “clout” to wield politics would lose some of its allure.

For today politics has become a very profitable occupation, a no holds barred contest to amass unearned fortunes, and there is little or no investigation into politicians with assets more than their legal sources of income.

And while all parties make pretence to curbing corruption and point accusing fingers at each other, when it comes to garnering votes all principles are tossed into the garbage bin. Sure there are some honest politicians ~ they count for little when “winnability” is the prime objective.