India court says 'criminal' MPs should not be in cabinet

Protest against criminals contesting the parliamentary elections in Delhi on March 14, 2009 Image copyright AFP
Image caption One-third of MPs - including a number of cabinet ministers - in the present parliament face criminal charges

India's Supreme Court has said that politicians with criminal records should not be appointed as ministers.

The court was responding to a petition seeking the removal of four ministers in a previous government.

One-third of MPs - including a number of cabinet ministers - in the present parliament face criminal charges.

Indian laws allow politicians facing criminal charges to run for public office, but not those who have been convicted.

On Wednesday, the court dismissed the petition saying that it could not "pass directions for disqualification of ministers facing criminal and corruption charges".

However, the top court said the prime minister and chief ministers of states should "not include people with criminal antecedents in their cabinet," according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Those in conflict with law and involved in offences of moral turpitude and corruption should not be allowed to discharge duty as ministers," the court said, adding that the prime minister and chief ministers are "expected to act with responsibility and with constitutional morality".


The government had argued that "once a person is an MP, he is entitled to be in the council of ministers, if the prime minister decides".

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that trials of lawmakers accused of serious crimes must be completed within a year.

And last year, the court barred lawmakers from elections if found guilty of offences carrying a jail term of at least two years.

Campaigners had called the order a major step forward in cleaning up Indian politics, which has been beset by corruption scandals.

The Delhi-based election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms says 34% of India's new MPs face criminal charges, up from 24% in 2004.

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