India court may suspend lawmakers facing charges
By Ashok Sharma ,APNEW DELHI -- India's top court said Wednesday it will decide whether to suspend lawmakers facing sexual assault charges as thousands of women gathered at the memorial to independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi to demand stronger protection for their safety.
January 3, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The march came as police prepared to formally charge six suspects in the gang rape and killing of a student in the capital two weeks ago.
The Dec. 16 rape triggered outrage across the country and sparked demands for stronger laws, tougher police action against those accused of sexual assault and a sustained campaign to change society's views on women.
As part of that campaign, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir agreed to hear a petition on Thursday from retired government administrator Promilla Shanker asking the Supreme Court to suspend all lawmakers from the national and state legislatures who are facing prosecution for crimes against women.
She also asked the court to force the national government to fast-track thousands of rape cases that have languished in India's notoriously sluggish court system for years.
Six state lawmakers are facing rape prosecutions and two national parliamentarians are facing charges of crimes against women that fall short of rape, said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, an official with the Association for Democratic Reforms, which tracks political candidate's criminal records.
In the past five years, political parties across India nominated 260 candidates awaiting trial on charges of crimes against women, he said. Parties ran six candidates for the national parliamentary elections facing such charges, Chokkar said.