Global Post
Jason Overdorf

Proposed law would prevent politicians accused of murder and other heinous crimes from running for office while appealing charges against them

In a bid to end the scourge of criminals seeking political office, India plans a new law that will bar people accused of heinous crimes from competing in polls, the Times of India reports.

In recent years, the nexus between politicians and local criminals -- who deliver votes with "muscle and money power" -- has become more dramatic as alleged gangsters have taken to running for office themselves, making the parliament a veritable house of ill repute.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, the number of politicians implicated in criminal cases has steadily increased over the past several elections, despite new rules that compel candidates to declare any charges pending against them and make public their financial assets.

Around a quarter of India's current members of parliament have criminal charges pending against them.

If cleared by the cabinet, the new amendment to the Representation of The People Act will raise the bar for those wishing to run for office, however, the TOI said.

In its current form blocks only those convicted in criminal cases and sentenced for more than two years. But because Indian criminal cases typically drag on for decades because of long delays in judgments and disposal of appeals against convictions, the law has not been effective in stopping so-called "history sheeters" with a raft of criminal charges pending against them from campaigning and winning election to the parliament or various state assemblies.

Because some have expressed fears that making the law too tough would allow rival politicians to block their opponents from running by filing false cases against them -- which would take equally long to resolve -- the proposed amendment would only block those candidates accused of heinous crimes including terrorism, murder, kidnapping of any form, counterfeiting, sexual assaults against women, narcotics offenses and (most controversially) sedition.

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