Six major political parties have fielded at least 63 Lok Sabha candidates who face criminal charges or with a criminal past, says a group of election observers. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leads the list with 28 such candidates, says the National Election Watch (NEW), a grouping of NGOs.
There are also 13 from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), five each from the Congress and Samajwadi Party and two from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
Different courts have separately stopped five politicians convicted of crime from contesting the April-May elections.
They are Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MPs Pappu Yadav and Mohammed Shahabuddin, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MP Surajbhan Singh, former Janata Dal-United (JD-U) MP Anand Mohan and Samajwadi Party general secretary Sanjay Dutt.
According to NEW, the Congress, BJP, Communist Party of India, CPI-M, Samajwadi Party and BSP have so far named 730 candidates. They will name more in the days to come.
The group examined affidavits of 278 of the candidates.
"Sixty-three of the 278 have criminal records. Thirty-nine candidates have serious cases like murder, attempt to murder, robbery, theft, kidnapping against them," the group's Anil Bairwal told IANS.
NEW is a nationwide group that has over 1,200 NGOs and other citizen-led organisations working on electoral reforms, improving democracy and governance, apart from monitoring candidates.
Former Indian Army chief Shankar Roychowdhury, a member of the NEW committee, said: "This indicates political parties are fielding a large number of candidates with serious criminal records. Voters must study the records of candidates carefully and vote for honest individuals without regard to party, caste or religion."