NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has taken note of one of the minimum criteria that a person must have for contesting panchayat elections in Haryana -- a toilet in the house -- and asked the state government to file an affidavit giving details as to how many poor natives have the facility.
"You (Haryana) file an affidavit as to how may below poverty line (BPL) families have toilets in their households," a bench comprising justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said. The court's direction came when Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Haryana, justified fixation of minimum criteria including that a candidate should must have a toilet and said around 7 lakh BPL households, out of total 8.5 BPL homes, have toilets.
"Almost 80 to 85 per cent BPL families have the toilet facilities and hence, this pre-requisite cannot be said to be bad," the AG said, adding that the representatives should "lead by an example".
Besides fixing minimum educational criteria for aspiring candidates, the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 also said that any candidate desirous of contesting panchayat elections will also have to file a self-certified statement that there is a functional toilet in his or her residence.
Earlier, Haryana had defended the recent amendment in state law fixing minimum educational qualifications and other criteria for candidates of panchayat polls saying the representatives should lead by example as they need to perform various governmental functions.
The bench is hearing a plea assailing the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 which fixes minimum educational qualifications for candidates of panchayat (village administration) polls. Earlier, the apex court had stayed the amended provisions of the law and sought the state's reply in four weeks.
The amended law fixes matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting panchayat elections, while the qualification for women (general) and Scheduled Caste candidates has been fixed at Class VIII.
However, in case of a woman candidate belonging to SC category contesting election for the post of Panch (panchayat head), the minimum qualification would be Class V.