The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday stayed the recently ordinance promulgated by the Haryana government fixing educational qualification for elections to Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs).
The order of the division bench of justice SK Mittal and justice MS Chauhan came on a petition of Ved Wanti, a resident of Hisar district, who had challenged the government move, terming it "unconstitutional, arbitrary and illegal".
The Haryana government had come out with an ordinance notification on August 14, whereby, as per an amendment in Clause (v) of Section 175 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, 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 and women candidates and Class 10 for other candidates. Other conditions imposed include having a toilet at home, barring of chargesheeted persons and those who have not cleared electricity dues etc. But in this petition, the challenge is only with regard to educational qualification.
The petitioner had stated that she had studied up to Class 7 and intended to participate in the elections, but due to the government move, she stood disqualified.
"Neither under Part IX of the Constitution, which deals with panchayats and its elections, nor under the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, is there any provision which prescribes the minimum educational qualification for a candidate… Before promulgating the ordinance, no survey was conducted to ascertain as to what percentage of the population in Haryana was of matriculate or middle pass," the petitioner's lawyer Manjeet Singh had argued before the court.
"In the absence of any such material, a majority of the persons who are below matriculate or middle pass have been deprived of their right to contest the elections (PRIs), which violates their right of equal opportunity," Singh said.
The high court order bars the government from holding the elections as per the notification with regard to educational qualification. But, per se, there is no stay on holding the elections as per the existing rules. The high court division bench has posted the matter for further hearing for August 28 and sought the government response on it.