DEHRADUN: In a big relief to those willing to contest upcoming state panchayat election, the Uttarakhand high court on Thursday held that aspirants with more than two children before July 25, 2019, are eligible to contest the elections.
The judgement by division bench of chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and justice Alok Kumar Verma dated September 19, 2019 stated, "We, therefore, read down Section 8(1)(r) and declare that the disqualification from contesting elections to Panchayati Raj Institution, in terms of the said provision, would apply only to cases where persons, having two children or more, have a third child or more after 25.07.2019. The said provision shall not be understood as disqualifying those who already have three or more children before 25.07.2019."
Earlier, in July this year, Uttarakhand government amended Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016 by the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2019 after current five-year term of the elected members of the panchayat raj institutions, in the state ended on July 15, 2019.
The state government had added sections and sub-sections which rendered aspiring candidates for state panchayat elections ineligible to contest these elections who have more than two children.
Several petitions were filed in the court after which the HC had reserved the judgement which was pronounced on Thursday.
The court did not strike down the amendment but directed that it will be applicable after July 25, 2019, only and not before.
"It is settled law that it is not the job of the court to decide whether a law is good or bad. Policy matters fall within the realm of the legislature and not of the courts. The court is, however, empowered and has the jurisdiction to decide whether a law is unconstitutional or not," said the court in the judgement.
The court after examining various aspects including constitutional validity of the amendment remarked in the judgement that the section barring the candidates to contest the upcoming elections is "unreasonable as it seeks to punish those, who already have more than two children, by disqualifying them from contesting elections; and it does not act as a disincentive in preventing population growth".
The bench in the judgement further remarked, "The object of disincentivizing people from having a third child, and to promote family planning, would not be achieved with respect to those who already have three or more children, since there is nothing that they can do to bring the children, they already have, below the two-child norm."
The court added that none of the policies of the government of India seeks to punish those who have three children or more.