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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Court to rule on jailed candidates
Bihar election rally
Voting in Bihar goes ahead on Wednesday
India's independent Election Commission says it will contest a court ruling that it should consider voiding polls featuring jailed candidates.

The commission is to file a petition in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Last week, the High Court in the state of Bihar questioned how prisoners who have no right to vote under Indian law could contest the general election.

Several jailed politicians are running in India's most lawless state, which completes its voting on Wednesday.

The last phase of voting takes place next Monday, with national results due on 13 May.


Indian law does not allow those awaiting trial to vote but there is no bar on people fighting elections from jail if not yet convicted.

The Election Commission has ordered all candidates to clearly state in an affidavit the number of cases pending against them.

Bihar MP Mohammad Shahabuddin
I am not a criminal just because there are so many cases against me
Mohammad Shahabuddin,
jailed Bihar candidate

But a Bihar social group, Jan Chowkidar, filed a petition to the Patna court demanding disqualification of the jailed candidates.

The court asked the Election Commission to reply before 13 May.

Jailed politicians contesting power in Bihar include Mohammad Shahabuddin in the Siwan constituency and Pappu Yadav in Purnia.

The two are facing charges in cases including murder and kidnapping.

Mr Shahabuddin dismisses concerns about his alleged background, saying: "I will win because I have ensured development and law and order in my region."

The Election Commission has already ordered an inquiry into complaints of widespread vote-rigging and other irregularities in the Chhapra constituency in Bihar.

India votes 2004: Full in-depth coverage here

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