Panchayat polls: Haryana to clarify eligibility criteria

New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) The Haryana government will inform the Supreme Court on Tuesday whether it was inclined to drop educational qualification eligibility criteria for the candidates aspiring to contest panchayat elections as the court expressed “serious” reservation over the provision.

Elections to Panchayats in the state are due and the process commenced on September 8.

Under the amended law – the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act 2015, a person from the general category aspiring to contest the election should have passed class 10 and those belonging to Dalit community should have passed class 8.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Monday told a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre that the state would get back with their response after noting the court’s “serious” reservation about the criteria.

“We have serious doubts atleast so far as educational qualification is concerned. We are worried about it,” said Justice Chelameswar adjourning the hearing so that the attorney general could take instruction from Haryana government.

The Haryana Panchayati Raj law provides besides education, grounds of criminal background, bank arrears and toilets as eligibility criteria for the candidates aspiring to contest the panchayat elections. The court had stayed the amended provisionson September 17.

Making it clear that it was not against educational qualification as a criteria for contesting election, the court said that it was discriminatory under the constitution’s article 14 guaranteeing equal opportunity.

The court said that educational qualification has taken away more than 50 percent of the rural population from the ambit of becoming candidates, as it wondered that when there is no requirement of educational qualification for becoming law maker in parliaments or state legislatures but the same is being insisted upon for panchayat elections.

As Rohatgi said it has created a peculiar situation where for the first three days, nominations for the phase one elections of the panchayats were filed on the basis of educational qualification and for the remaining two days, on the earlier law, the court said that it has a way out. If both the petitioners and the Haryana government agree to postpone the elections, then, in a week’s time, the court would hear the matter, it said.

Realising the mood of the court, Rohatgi first offered four weeks adjournment of the panchayat election but then said that elections could be held by putting on hold the requirement of educational qualification.

As he said that he would seek instructions from the state government, senior counsel Rajinder Sachhar said that there has to be clarity on the mandatory toilet clause as a qualification for contesting elections.

Allowing the AG to take instructions, the court said that one of the factor that weighed with it that the matter of similar educational qualification in Rajasthan has not been settled so far.

The court was moved by the Communist Party of India-Marxist-affiliated All India Democratic Women Association, Rajbala and others.

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