Indian Supreme Court sets deadline for lawmakers' trials

India parliament Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 150 MPs in the 543-seat lower house of parliament are said to be facing criminal charges

Trials of Indian lawmakers accused of serious crimes must be completed within a year, the Supreme Court has ordered.

If a trial court fails to do so, judges will have to explain the reasons for the delay to the high court, the top court said.

Last year, the Supreme Court barred lawmakers from elections if found guilty of offences carrying a jail term of at least two years.

Indian politics has been beset by corruption scandals in recent years.

More than 150 MPs in the 543-seat lower house of parliament are said to be facing criminal charges.

The Association for Democratic Reforms election watchdog says across the country there are 1,460 serving lawmakers facing criminal charges.

The data is based on information provided by politicians to the Election Commission before submitting themselves to the electorate. Research suggests 15 MPs face at least one murder charge.

Fresh elections are due in India in April and May, the Election Commission has announced.

In its order on Monday, the Supreme Court judges said that criminal cases against lawmakers from the federal parliament and state assemblies would be heard on "a day-to-day basis".

If a trial court judge failed to conclude the case in a year from the time the charges are framed, he must explain the reasons to the chief justice of the high court, the top court said.

Campaigners say the court order will be a further step in cleaning the Indian political system.

Until last year's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, Indian politicians convicted of crimes could keep jobs while pursuing appeals which could go on for years.

But after the ruling, several politicians were disqualified from fighting elections, among them the former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav who was convicted for embezzling state funds intended to buy food for cattle.

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