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Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 14:42 UK

India 'has 153 tainted new MPs'

An Indian voter
India is in the process of forming a new government

At least 153 of the newly-elected MPs in India have criminal cases pending against them, according to a study by civil society groups.

Groups working on electoral reforms say the opposition BJP has the highest number of tainted MPs at 43 while the Congress party is number two with 41.

The group has written letters to senior Congress party leaders with an appeal to keep these MPs out of the cabinet.

Corruption and criminalisation of politics are major issues in India.

India is in the process of forming a new government.

Elections were held in April and May and a Congress party-led coalition is due to take power in the next few days.

'Declining'

"There are now 153 MPs with criminal charges and 74 of them with serious criminal charges," Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch, a civil society alliance working for clean politics and accountable governance, said in a press release.

The study said the opposition BJP has most MPs with pending criminal cases at 43 - out of which 19 MPs have serious criminal cases against them.

The Congress party has 41 MPs with criminal cases - out of which 12 MPs have serious charges against them, it added.

The study said a comparison of top 10 MPs with criminal records in 2004 and 2009 elections indicated that number of candidates with very serious criminal backgrounds had declined.

"Several heavy weight candidates with a criminal background have been rejected by voters. In fact, top five MPs with criminal cases from the 2004 Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) have been rejected by voters."

But, what remains worrying is that many of the MPs are charged with serious criminal offences, including murder and gang war.

"It would be appropriate that none of the newly elected MPs with criminal cases pending against them be made ministers in the new government," the campaigners say in letters addressed to Manmohan Singh, widely tipped to return as the prime minister, Congress party President Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi.

"In addition, it would be in the interests of setting an example, it would be nice if MPs with criminal cases pending against them are not made parliamentary secretaries or be nominated to any of the parliamentary committees."

Indian election rules do not prevent those charged with criminal cases from standing for electoral offices, they only bar those who have been convicted.

And considering India's slow judicial system, convictions often take years - even decades - to come.



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