Haryana poll law will hit 50% people: apex court

A serious constitutional question is at stake, says judge

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:12 pm IST

Published - September 22, 2015 02:49 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Insisting on minimum educational qualification for those contesting the panchayat elections will strike off 50 per cent from participating in the grassroots democracy for the sole reason that they are illiterate, the Supreme Court observed on Monday.

A Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar expressed the court’s concern when Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi described the recent amendments to the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act 2015, mandating educational qualifications, as a “progressive law.”

“Such laws straight away debar 50 per cent of our population from contesting in panchayat or local bodies’ elections ... This is a serious issue. We have serious doubts about this kind of law as regards introducing educational qualifications as eligibility criteria for candidates,” Justice Chelameswar observed.

Mr. Rohatgi said that at some point the waiting for everyone to be literate should stop, and reforms had to start.

Mr. Rohatgi referred to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to ask the apex court, “How long can we wait to avail of the fruits of Independence?”

“Till what time will we wait for everyone to be literate ... somewhere the reforms have to start. If we are going the Right to Education Act way, this direction cannot be stultified today,” Mr. Rohatgi urged.

“So if you think the law introducing minimum educational qualification is so progressive, why don’t you suggest the same for Parliament too?” Justice Chelameswar asked the A-G, implying that the same eligibility criterion should apply for the parliamentarians too and not just at the panchayat levels.

The court then asked Mr. Rohatgi whether the State government could agree to its suggestion to postpone the election for a week until the case was decided.

“A serious constitutional question is at stake,” Justice Chelameswar said.

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