NEW DELHI: Fixation of minimum educational qualifications to contest panchayat elections would "straightaway" debar fifty per cent Indians, the Supreme Court today said while seeking Haryana government's opinion on it.
Faced with the argument that its order, staying recent amendments in the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, amounted to stalling the poll process and was not legally tenable, the apex court said "what is the percentage of literacy? Even if we go by your figures, 50 per cent will be straightaway disqualified from contesting elections."
"We are really worried about fixing of educational qualification as an eligibility criteria to contest elections," a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing Haryana, strongly argued for vacation of the September 17 order of the apex court and said the consequence was that the election has been ordered to be conducted under the provisions of state law that stand amended and replaced.
The court, which did not express its reservations to other pre-requisites for becoming a candidate, has now fixed the hearing tomorrow when Rohatgi said he would take instruction on removal of minimum educational qualification criteria and come back to the bench.
At the outset, the Attorney General referred to the date of passage of amendment bill in state assembly and said that on September 8, the election schedule was announced.
"On September 17, the Lordships passed the order and the result is some nominations have been filed under the new law and some have filed them under the old law which is no longer in force," he said and sought vacation of the order.
Referring to various constitutional provisions, he said that making class 10 pass mandatory to contest was part of "progressive law making" as they have to perform a host of jobs which needed a minimum qualification.
The amended law fixes matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting the 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, the minimum qualification would be Class V pass, the new law says.