Almost one in every five candidates contesting in India's election is accused of committing a heinous crime, according to independent analysis.
About 19 per cent of those standing in the election face charges including rape, murder and kidnapping, New-Delhi based Association of Democratic Reforms said on Monday, citing signed affidavits submitted to the Election Commission.
"There is a continuous increase in the proportion of candidates who have criminal cases against them," said Jagdeep Chhokar, a founding member of ADR. "Everyone, including voters and political parties, need to think why people with criminal cases are given tickets."
India's law bars a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment of two years or more from fighting elections. Those facing charges are free to run as the judicial system can take decades to resolve a case. The proportion of such candidates was 17 per cent in 2014 election, up from 15 per cent in 2009.
About 40 per cent of the candidates fielded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have a criminal case against them. Key opposition party Congress is not far behind with 39 per cent of the candidates with criminal charges. The proportion is above 50 per cent for some political parties.
As many as 900 million Indians are voting in the world's biggest election that will conclude on May 23. India's enforcement agencies have so far seized cash, liquor, drugs, gold and other contraband worth Rs 34 billion ($484 million) as politicians try to win over voters.
That explains the rise of millionaires in the world's costliest polls. About 29 per cent of the candidates have declared assets of more than Rs 10 million, compared with 27 per cent in 2014. The percentage is as high as 83 per cent for both the ruling BJP and rival Congress, the research showed.
Only 48 per cent candidates are graduates. Over 60 per cent are below 50 years of age and just 9 per cent of candidates are women.