The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday refused to stay the Haryana government’s recent amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act, imposing several conditions for those contesting elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
The division bench of justice SK Mittal and justice MS Chauhan observed that once the election process was underway, it would be in the “interest of justice” not to stay the notification.
“We can’t grant you something, which means allowing petition… You may have a case. Can we stay when it (election process) is underway… prima facie, it appears you have a case. But we are restraining ourselves,” the high court bench said while replying to queries being posed by a battery of lawyers questioning the government move.
Concluding over an hour-long debate on the issue, the high court issued notice to state government on the petitions listed for hearing on Monday, but added in its order that “the elections would be subject to outcome of the petition” and posted the matter for further hearing for October 8.
The high court bench was hearing bunch of petitions filed by private persons and a public interest litigation challenging the notification of government passed after the Haryana assembly had passed an amendment in Section 175 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, whereby the minimum academic qualification for all levels of elected representatives of PRIs (panches, sarpanches, block samiti, zila parishad members etc.) was fixed at Class 8 for Scheduled Caste (SC) and woman candidates and Class 10 for other candidates. For the posts of panches, the minimum qualification for an SC woman candidate has been fixed at Class 5. Other conditions imposed include having a toilet at home, barring of chargesheeted persons and those who have not cleared electricity dues etc.
Earlier, the petitioner told the court that the notification was issued in haste and to prevent judicial intervention as the ordinance was already under challenge in the court. The court was also told that 60% of population would be rendered ineligible due to government move. “The present regime does not have people to contest in villages. How can such a move be justified when Right to Education Act implemented in the state provides compulsory education up to 8th only,” the petitioner argued.
However, the court, refusing to stay the elections, stated that such data should be provided to court so that an early decision could be reached at in this case.