Govt. can’t punish us for lack of education: Women on Haryana new poll law

Updated - March 28, 2016 06:44 pm IST

Published - October 08, 2015 03:07 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Women candidates affected by >Haryana’s new poll law imposing minimum educational qualifications to contest panchayat elections told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that “people do not choose to be illiterate.”

“In fact, it is the State’s failure to have not provided us with education. We should not be punished for the State’s failure. People do not choose to remain uneducated. This is a country where primary and secondary education is hardly available,” advocate Kirti Singh, counsel for a batch of candidates affected by the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, submitted in the Supreme Court.

This maiden hearing followed the Haryana government’s decision to freeze its panchayat elections scheduled on October 4 when the Supreme Court refused to stop questioning the constitutionality of imposing minimum educational qualifications on candidates aspiring to be part of grassroots democracy.

The Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar had on September 17 stayed the new amendments in the State’s panchayat poll law, seeing it as prima facie a move affecting poor illiterate people from contesting elections.

The amended law fixes matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting panchayat elections, while the qualification for women (general) and Scheduled Caste candidates has been fixed at Class VIII.

In the case of a woman candidate belonging to the Scheduled Caste category contesting election for the post of panchayat head, the minimum qualification would be Class V.

Ms. Singh argued that none of the candidates have benefited from the Right to Education Act, which was enacted only in November 2010. As of now, statistics of the State show that 83 per cent of Dalit women would be excluded from contesting the panchayat polls.

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