[JURIST] India's top court on Wednesday ruled that lawmakers with criminal backgrounds should not serve in government positions but that Prime Minister Narendra Modi [official website] should be allowed to choose his own cabinet. The supreme court expressed hope [Al Jazeera report] that, despite this freedom, Modi would keep public expectations and the country's democratic values in mind when considering people with criminal backgrounds. This judgment was the result [Guardian report] of a petition that sought to bar MPs charged but not yet convicted of crimes from holding state or federal government positions. While India currently bars persons convicted of serious crimes from being appointed, no such bar exists for those facing charges.
Modi was elected prime minister [Guardian report] of India in May in a landslide victory. The election of the Hindu nationalist and 282 members of his conservative Bharatiya Janata party [official website] was called historic, as no party has won by such a margin since 1984. Since his election thirteen of his 45 ministers have been charged with criminal offenses. Eight of them are accused of serious offenses. The Supreme Court last July held [The Hindu report] that MPs convicted for offenses would be immediately disqualified from serving the House without being given time for appeal. Prior to this convicted members could preserve their positions by filing appeals.