The Supreme Court on Wednesday took exception to the argument that defaulters of power bills should not be barred from contesting panchayat as MPs and MLAs who owed huge sums to service providers weren’t restrained.
“What kind of argument is this? These arguments are for somewhere else and cannot be raised before the court,” a bench comprising Justices J Chelamesar and AM Sapre said, adding “please advance arguments on proposition of law and Constitution”.
The court’s observation came when advocate Sanjay Parekh, appearing for NGO PUCL, was assailing the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 which, besides fixing minimum educational qualifications for candidates of panchayat (village administration) polls, restrains people from contesting if they have defaulted in paying electric bills.
“It is totally arbitrary. How can it be that if a person, who has not been able to pay electricity bills, will be a bad ‘sarpanch’,” the lawyer said and referred to the huge unpaid such bills of MPs and MLAs.
Assailing the provision of minimum educational criteria in the amended Haryana law, another lawyer said the state was punishing the poor for its own failure to provide education as the people do not choose not to be educated.
The court would on Thursday continue its hearing on pleas challenging various criteria including fixation of minimum educational criteria by the recent amendment in the state election law for candidates to contest panchayat polls.
Earlier, the apex court had stayed the amended provisions of the law and sought the state’s reply in four weeks.
The amended law fixes matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting 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 (panchayat head), the minimum qualification would be Class V.
The lawyer for the petitioner had said that 83% of Dalit women and 71% women in general and 56% men would be excluded from contesting the panchayat polls by this law, which affected fundamental rights of the candidates.