The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutional validity of a Haryana law that made minimum educational qualification compulsory for contesting panchayat elections in the state.
A bench of Justice J Chelameswar and Justice AM Sapre, which had stayed the implementation of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, said there was nothing wrong in the law passed by the state assembly on September 7.
The verdict can have far-reaching implications as almost half the state’s population will be rendered ineligible to contest the polls under the new law.
The law stipulates that general-category candidates for panchayat polls must have a minimum qualification of completing class 10. Scheduled caste and women aspirants are required to clear class 8 while women from the SC category will be eligible only if they have passed class 5.
Educational qualifications are in addition to other eligibility criteria for candidates.
In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat campaign, the law makes it mandatory that poll candidates have a functional toilet at home.
Anyone found defaulting in payment of agricultural loan and electricity bills will be disqualified.
The top court’s verdict paves the way for holding elections to rural institutions in Haryana, which has nearly 72,000 posts in panchayat samitis and zila parishads. Earlier, the three-phase polls scheduled for October 4, 11 and 18 were stayed by the court.
The judgment will have a bearing on similar laws passed by other states, such as Rajasthan, prescribing minimum educational qualifications for rural poll candidates.
The Haryana law was challenged by Rajbala and some other candidates, who became ineligible to contest rural elections within the new rules.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, representing the state, had upheld even the two-child norm for contesting panchayat elections. The counter-argument was that having more than two children had nothing to do with the ability of an elected representative to discharge his or her duties.