Rajasthan passes bill on eligibility for panchayat polls

Becomes first State to fix a minimum educational qualification for contesting elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions

Updated - March 28, 2015 02:39 am IST

Published - March 28, 2015 02:15 am IST - JAIPUR:

The amendments to Section 19 of the Rajasthan Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 also make a functional toilet mandatory in the house of a contestant.

The amendments to Section 19 of the Rajasthan Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 also make a functional toilet mandatory in the house of a contestant.

Rajasthan became the first State in the country to fix a minimum educational qualification for contesting elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The Assembly on Friday passed the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (amendment) Bill, 2015, which makes Class VIII pass mandatory for the post of sarpanch — except in tribal reserved areas, where the minimum qualification is Class V — and Class X for Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections.

The amendments to Section 19 of the Rajasthan Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 also make a functional toilet mandatory in the house of a contestant.

Replying to the debate on the Bill, Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said resistance to the law was not justified because the Opposition party had failed to provide even basic education to the people in its more than 60 years in power. Making toilets mandatory had given a push to the cleanliness drive. More than four lakh toilets were built only during the just-concluded elections.

The government had promulgated an ordinance specifying educational qualification for contestants on December 20, just before the panchayat elections were announced.

More than 200 cases have been filed against winners, accusing them of producing fake mark sheets to fulfil the eligibility criteria.

The ordinance has been challenged in court by social activists and political parties. The next hearing is scheduled for April 15. Congress chief whip Govind Singh Dotasara said there was no justification for insisting on educational qualification at the grassroots level when there was no such condition for elections to State Assemblies and Parliament

The BJP faced opposition from within as well. Party MLA Prahlad Gunjal said the mandatory educational qualification had pushed people to adopt unfair means to contest.

“There are many MLAs and MPs who are not educated but have contributed significantly in drafting some of the best laws of the country,” Mr. Gunjal said. Laws should not become hurdles for the masses to exercise their rights, he added.

Describing the law as discriminatory, Pradyuman Singh of the Congress said he was convinced that it would be struck down by the court.

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