SC upholds edu criterion for Haryana panchayat poll

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
The Supreme Court today declared as constitutionally valid all five new conditions imposed by the Haryana Government for contesting panchayat elections in the state, holding that these were necessary for efficient administration of villages.

A Bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre delivered the judgment after dismissing a PIL by Rajbala and two others, challenging the validity of the fresh set of norms that had rendered them ineligible to contest the panchayat elections slated for October.
After a preliminary hearing of the PIL, the Bench had passed an order on September 17, staying the operation of the amendment till the disposal of the case. This prompted the state government to immediately cancel the election. Today, the Bench clarified that the stay order stood vacated, paving the way for holding the panchayat elections in the state under the new law. Introduced through the HaryanaPanchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, the new norms specify varying educational qualifications for the contesting candidates depending upon their category. The other four requirements are — the candidate should have a functional toilet at home, should not be on trial for offences entailing a jail term of 10 years or more and should not have arrears in the repayment of loans taken from cooperative banks or payment of electricity bills.
The apex court said there was nothing wrong in having such conditions as the Constitution itself had imposed limitations on people’s right to contest elections, be it for Parliament, Assemblies or for the offices of the President and the Vice-President.
Acknowledging that educational qualifications were necessary for effective discharge of various duties of the panchayats, the Bench said this “cannot be said to be irrational or illegal or unconnected with the scheme and purpose of the (panchayat) Act.”
“It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration of the panchayats,” it explained.
The SC said two conditions on prompt clearance of electricity bills and loans were similar to insolvency that rendered people to contest any election. On the necessity to have a functional toilet at home, the Bench said the primary duty of any civic body was to maintain sanitation. “Those who aspire to get elected to these civic bodies and administer them must set an example for others,” it held.
It was almost a hundred years ago, Mahatma Gandhi had launched a move to get rid of open defecation in the country. But this unhealthy practice was still continuing, the SC lamented.
In view of this, it was need of the hour that other states emulated Haryana by debarring those who did not have toilets at home from contesting elections to civic bodies, the Bench suggested.