Among India’s newly elected members of parliament, almost half face criminal charges and the share of such MPs has been on a steady rise.
In a shocking revelation, an analysis highlights that the chances of winning in the Parliament’s lower house this year for a candidate implicated in declared criminal cases was 15.5% whereas it was only 4.7% for candidates with clean backgrounds.
In the world’s largest democracy, 43% or 233 out of 539 winning candidates in the general elections have declared criminal charges pending, according to a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
The election of such candidates has risen by 26% since 2014 and by 44% since 2009.
Indian law bars a person convicted of any offense and sentenced to an imprisonment of two years or more from fighting elections. But persons only facing charges are free to contest the elections. Meanwhile the Indian judicial system moves slowly and can take decades to resolve a case.
Out of the 7,928 candidates analyzed by ADR in this election, 1,500 (19%) had declared open criminal cases against themselves. The share was 17% in 2014.
Moreover, 159 (29%) of the winners face serious criminal charges including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and crimes against women.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which won the elections with a majority, can also boast the highest number of parliamentarians facing criminal charges. As many as 116 out of BJP’s 303 elected MPs (39%) have criminal cases pending against them.
Other parties beat the BJP in percentage terms, however. The parliamentarians under charge include 29 (57%) from the Congress, 13 (81%) from the Janata Dal-United, 10 (43%) from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and nine (41%) from the Trinamool Congress, according to the report.
A Congress winner, Dean Kuriakose from Idukki constituency in Kerala, topped the list with 204 criminal cases against himself, including cases related to committing culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery and criminal intimidation.
The BJP faced controversy for fielding Pragya Singh Thakur, currently being tried for alleged terrorism, as a candidate from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Thakur won the election to become a parliamentarian.
While 30 winners face charges of attempt to murder, 19 are implicated in cases related to crimes against women and 29, hate speech.