SC seeks Haryana reply to plea challenging laws limiting Scheduled Caste members’ opportunity to become sarpanch

Petitioner says the amendments were in violation of mandate of Article 243D of the Constitution (reservation of seats)

Published - July 25, 2022 10:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The apex court listed the case for August 11. File.

The apex court listed the case for August 11. File. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Haryana government’s response to a petition questioning State laws which can frustrate the opportunity of a Scheduled Caste person from being elected sarpanch of a gram panchayat.

The amendments in question are Section 9(5) of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Act, 2020 and Haryana Panchayati Raj Election (Amendment) Rules, 2021. 

A Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit issued notice to Haryana on a petition filed by Shyam Sunder, represented by advocate Deepkaran Dalal. The petition has raised the legality of the two laws and their insistence that a Scheduled Caste member can be sarpanch only if the Scheduled Caste population add up to more than 10% of the total population in that gram panchayat.

The apex court listed the case for August 11.

‘Implications far and wide’

“The implications of the amendments are far and wide. It will affect the reservation of seats in 7,030 gram panchayats across Haryana. The population of Scheduled Castes in Haryana is 19.25% of the total population of the State. Out of this, 78% of the Scheduled Caste population lives in rural areas,” Mr. Dalal argued from the petition.

He submitted that Mr. Sunder himself belonged to a panchayat where the Scheduled Caste population did not add up to 10% of the total population.

The lawyer said the amendments were in violation of the mandate of Article 243D of the Constitution (reservation of seats).

“Article 243D is meant to ensure that the benefit of reservation is given to every eligible citizen. The rationale behind reservation in accordance with the population is to increase the participation of Scheduled Castes in the Panchayati Raj institutions, particularly the gram panchayat, and not to deprive them of the benefit of reservation, as has been done by the impugned amendment,” the petition argued. 

It said the amendments were “manifestly illegal” and against the spirit and provisions of the Constitution and the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act of 1994. 

“The concept of reservation ensures that a minimum number of candidates from reserved category get elected but in the present case, the minimum number has further been reduced,” Mr. Dalal argued.

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