NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutional validity of recent amendments to the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 that bars non-matric candidates from contesting in the panchayat polls.
The law stipulates that general category candidates for panchayat polls must be Class 10 qualified. Scheduled caste and women aspirants are required to clear Class 8 while women from the SC category will be eligible only if they have passed Class 5.
Dismissing a writ petition challenging the validity of the law, a bench of Justice J Chelameswar and Justice A M Sapre said there was nothing wrong in the law passed by the state assembly on September 7 with the former saying, “It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration of the panchayats.”
The law also makes it mandatory for poll candidates to have a functional toilet at home. Anyone found defaulting in payment of agricultural loan and electricity bills will be disqualified.
The Apex Court’s decision would have far reaching implications for the state’s political landscape as literacy in rural Haryana is below the nation’s average of 74 per cent. In the last three-tier panchayat elections held in Haryana in 2010, over 67 per cent of the candidates who won the election were illiterates and non-matriculates. According to figures provided to the Supreme Court by the Haryana government, 20,392 of the 67,827 elected candidates were illiterate and 25,334 were non-matriculates.
Haryana has argued before the Supreme Court that the law was aimed at promoting literacy. The state has an overall literacy rate of 75.55 per cent, with the rural literacy rate at 71.42 per cent.
The top court’s verdict paves the way for holding panchayats polls in the state. Earlier, the three-phase polls scheduled for October 4, 11 and 18 were stayed by the court.
Meanwhile, the Haryana state government decided to fix educational qualification for the candidates contesting Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections as well. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said Thursday that since elections to the ULBs were to be held for 42 municipalities out of the 79, the state had decided to fix educational qualification for the candidates contesting the elections with an ordinance. These would not be less than the qualifications fixed for candidates contesting polls to PRIs.