SC stays amendments to Haryana panchayat law

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:12 pm IST

Published - September 17, 2015 07:43 pm IST - New Delhi

In a fillip to “grassroots democracy”, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the operation of a >new panchayat law in Haryana prescribing minimum educational qualifications for contesting in local bodies' elections.

The apex court's decision to stay the function of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (amendment) Act 2015 serves a blow to the State government which notified the changes in conditions of eligibility only on September 8, a day prior to the opening of nominations for the panchayat elections.

In an urgent mentioning, a bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar issued notice to both the Haryana government and the State Election Commission on petitions filed by some poll aspirants.

According to the amendments, general category candidates require a minimum qualification of Class 10 pass, men contesting in Scheduled Caste category and women in general category need to be Class 8 pass, while women in the Scheduled Caste category need to be Class 5 pass to be eligible.

The amendments also required that candidates should not have any dues in co-operative banks, electricity bills should be paid up and there should be a functional toilet at home.

The stay by the Supreme Court came shortly after the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to intervene with the law.

The Supreme Court's intervention is however preceded by its refusal, in January this year, to entertain a similar challenge against the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2014.

The Rajasthan Ordinance, promulgated on December 20, 2014, also prescribed minimum educational qualifications to contest in local body elections, and effectively kept out illiterate persons from the democratic process.

The apex court had at the time asked the petitioner and social activist Aruna Roy to instead move the State High Court. Ms. Roy had argued that the Ordinance was a “punitive and dis-entitling measure” in a State where Right to Education has seen the worst implementation.

She had argued that the Ordinance violated the inclusive spirit of the 73rd and 74th Amendments and served as an “exit for illiterate people”.

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