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India’s Court Says Convicted Lawmakers to Be Barred From Office

Indian lawmakers convicted of crimes will be barred from office the moment they are found guilty, the country’s top court ruled in a bid to curb the growing criminality of politics in the world’s largest democracy.

The Supreme Court said that the order won’t apply to lawmakers who made appeals before today, the Press Trust of India reported. The ruling may close a loophole where lawmakers could file repeated appeals against their convictions, allowing them to stay in power by taking advantage of India’s slow-moving justice system.

The number of lawmakers charged with offenses has more than doubled in the last fifteen years. About a quarter of federal and state legislators face charges that include murder, rape and kidnapping, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, which has campaigned for better governance since 1999.

Politicians on trial, or those with convictions if they have an appeal pending, are free to run for office in India. The average criminal case in India lasts about 15 years, according to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

Mukhtar Ansari, a lawmaker in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly, has been elected three times from prison where he is awaiting trial for ordering a rival’s murder by hitmen who pumped 400 bullets into the victim’s car.

Raghuraj Pratap Singh, also known as Raja Bhaiya, was the food minister in Uttar Pradesh until March even though he had cases pending against him for attempted murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. He resigned after he was accused of being involved in the murder of a local policeman.

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