The Indian politicians facing criminal charges

 

Andrew North reports for Newsnight on how many Indian politicians are accused of rape, murder and other serious crimes.

Manoj Kumar Paras is meeting constituents in a covered yard outside his home, many desperate for his help.

He is a minister in the state government in India's Uttar Pradesh state.

Mr Paras is also charged with taking part in the gang-rape of a local woman.

The Indian government has promised speedier justice for crimes against women, shaken by protests over the fatal gang rape of a Delhi student.

Five of the accused are already on trial in a hastily-established fast-track court. A sixth accused, who is a minor, is being tried in a juvenile court.

But six years since Mr Paras was first charged, his case has neither been prosecuted nor dismissed.

Not unusual

The outcry over the Delhi gang rape has prompted a wider backlash against the old order, and the number of Indian politicians allowed to remain in office while facing serious charges is under the spotlight again.

Mr Paras' case is far from unusual.

CRIME FACTS

  • 1,448 of India's 4,835 MPs and state legislators have declared criminal cases
  • 641 of these 1,448 are facing serious charges like murder, rape, kidnapping
  • 44 of 206 Congress party MPs have declared criminal charges
  • 6 legislators in state assemblies are facing rape charges
  • 29 of 58 ministers in Uttar Pradesh state have criminal records

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a Delhi-based campaign group, a third of India's 4,835 elected representatives have declared criminal charges against them - many of them face serious cases like murder, rape and kidnapping.

The figures are based on information politicians themselves provide in their mandatory pre-election declarations.

Uttar Pradesh has more alleged criminals in its administration than any other state: Mr Paras is among 29 of 58 ministers charged with some kind of crime.

The state transport minister, Mehboob Ali, is charged with attempting to murder a rival politician, Nawshad Ali, last year.

He shows us the charge sheet drawn up by police, called FIR (first information report) in India.

But the minister disputes whether he has been charged.

"Maybe there is a complaint in a court or a police station," he says. "Maybe after an investigation, it might be found to be untrue."

On his election declaration, he has admitted to other past attempted murder charges, as well as kidnapping and robbery.

So far, there has been no progress in any of these cases.

Mr Paras says everyone in his Nagina constituency knows about his rape charge, insisting that it is "a conspiracy" fabricated by rivals.

That's possible in India's robust politics.

But it can be rare for women to press charges of rape - especially in rural areas like Nagina where tradition and caste govern life.

Many do not even report an assault because of the fear they will be ostracised by their family and community.

'Tainted' politicians

However serious the charge, as long as a politician is not convicted, he or she can stay in office under Indian law.

They are helped by the overloaded justice system, where even minor cases can drag out.

Manoj Kumar Paras at a meeting Manoj Kumar Paras says the rape charge against him is a "conspiracy" by his rivals

But ADR's national coordinator Anil Bairwal says politicians can also use their position to delay their cases "not just for years, but decades".

Until India's courts try more politicians, Mr Bairwal says the "poison" will spread through the world's largest democracy.

When Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav took power last year, he pledged not to appoint "tainted" officials to his government. His office would not agree to an interview, despite repeated requests.

Other parties, including the Congress, have made similar pledges.

Yet, ADR figures show, the number of accused politicians keeps rising.

Parties need them to deliver votes, especially where religion and caste play such a key role.

Mr Ali has a proven track record at delivering votes from his fellow Muslims in his constituency, winning four elections in a row.

Mr Paras won by nearly 30,000 votes last year in Nagina, with a particular appeal among members of his Dalits or untouchable caste.

With a general election due in the next year, "India's democracy is in danger", warns Gopal Subramaniam, a former solicitor general and one of the authors of the Verma Commission report into the Delhi gang rape case.

Their report called on all politicians facing serious charges to resign - coming into line with many other democracies.

But Mr Paras rejects the idea of standing down: "Just charging someone is not enough, you have to wait until you are convicted."

 
Andrew North Article written by Andrew North Andrew North South Asia correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    The situation is worsening as both wealth & power is consolidating in fewer hands. Kids from privileged, influential, affluent background (many of whom spent more time abroad) are becoming our policy makers. They hardly know India, its social evolution, its reality for common people. It's practically impossible for them to make policies for the country, even if they have the desire.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    In most corruption charges in ANY government organization, including educational & research ones, the accused or even convicted criminal (by departmental investigation) is hardly punished if s/he is well connected.

    Just resignation is considered enough. That too occurs very rarely. Happens ONLY in cases where more influential person is benefited by the ouster.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    @9 Rahul: Time to wake up and smell some coffee. In UK ordinary people are selected for Jury service and they pass their verdict to the judge in the trial court. In India the trial itself takes years to come into court and the judgement takes another few years. If it’s a politician it will take decades because the accused challenges the verdict in all courts until he/she gets way.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    That's why such 'darbars' (public hearing by gang leaders or politicians resembling medieval kings) becoming so popular even as mainstream public grievance redressal system.

    E.g- Just try evicting any illegally occupied land/house/apartment legally. It'll take decades with lots of mental pressure & bribe. But approach these neo-feudal lords, give them its share & get the job done in weeks.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 11.

    India is NOT a failed state whilst its citizens still have the courage to march and fight against injustice- which they do as has been recently shown.

    Andrew Motion's report is excellent as has been the reporting of the background of the girl who was gangraped and murdered in Delhi and the criminals who assaulted her. He did well not to switch off the camera when he was asked to do so.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    Average Indians hardly trust even the core institutions (mainly Law enforcement & civil governance) that hold the country & its democracy together. People r increasingly taking laws into their own hands. They prefer to approach organised crime gangs, local mafia & political leaders (almost same) for the service they are supposed to get frm such institutions.

    India is fast becoming a FAILED STATE.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    There is nothing wrong with the system, the same system gifted by UK is still functioning in UK and is considered with some of the best in the world. Its the people who manage the system are the problem.
    Can you imagine something like a the entire population covering juduciary, policing, media, general population were to keep quiet on a crime commited, what will call this phenomenon ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    In most of the cases against such influential people, the conclusion is decided long before the drama of 'investigation' start. Both efficiency & neutrality of almost all national institutions (e.g police, judiciary) are severely damaged & heavily affected by corruption.

    There is practically NO way for common men to address the issue & get the service they deserve. Now they r finding their ways.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    India doesn't deserve the title of "democracy". It's more like badly-organised crime.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    Most of the cases of corruption & crime (be it financial or criminal) allegation against anyone politically connected r rarely investigated even by India's top most agency (CBI). The rate of prosecution is even lower.

    It's mostly used to arm twist the concerned person & the associated political party or organization to give money &/or win number games in Parliament for the ruling party .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 5.

    In India, gulf between rich & the poor is so wide people can barely see each other, except close up in crime (e.g. rape). Corruption in places like India is called "illegal capital flow" (bribes). When functioning of India is mentioned, it is called ‘democracy’, but world-wide ‘democracy’ is becoming a dirty word: it means violence, theft & corruption founded on so-called free elections.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 3.

    India must improveit's judicial system and governance to take it's place as a civilized and just society. Now considering that Queen Victoria could have been considered the world's biggest drug dealer during the Opium War, the Royal Family still enjoys an exalted place in British society. We are more prone to point out the fault with others than the problems within ourselves. Just human nature

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2.

    "Proven": this word creates the loop hole that allows the politicians to remain in office.
    "Justice": Something all judicial systems should have.

    Politicians Remain in office because they aren't "proven" guilty, This Lacks "justice".

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    The whole Indian judiciary system needs to be changed and it requires a fresh look. There are plenty of loop holes in the current system,politicians have the money power to use all the loop holes, buy their time & enjoy their office .Sadly politicians can stay in office until they are proven guilty and by the time they are proven guilty it’s too late for the victim.

 

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