The Supreme Court of India has today upheld the Haryana government’s decision to make educational qualifications compulsory for those who want to contest the Panchayat elections in the state. The state has mandated that contestants belonging to the general category must have passed 10th standard and those belonging to Dalit communities and women are required to pass 8th standard examinations. Dalit women are mandated to have passed up to class 5th.
The apex court has ruled today that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”. The bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre said such a disqualification has to be upheld as a reasonable restriction on people’s “constitutional right” to contest polls.
“The proclaimed object of such classification is to ensure that those who seek election to panchayats have some basic education, which enables them to more effectively discharge various duties which befall the elected representatives. The object sought to be achieved cannot be said to be irrational or illegal or unconnected with the scheme and purpose of the Act or provisions of Part IX of the Constitution,” the bench said.
Earlier, the Rajasthan government too had come up with the minimum qualification requirement for candidates contesting in local body elections.
Another criterion that the court upheld for disqualifying a contestant is not having a functional toilet in his or her house. Though the petitioners pleaded that lot of rural people cannot afford to have a toilet at their residence, the bench noted that the state government is giving Rs 12000 to every household for constructing toilet.
“If people still do not have a toilet, it is not because of their poverty but because of their lacking the requisite will. One of the primary duties of any civic body is to maintain sanitation within its jurisdiction. Those who aspire to get elected to those civic bodies and administer them must set an example for others,” it said.
The judgment is expected to set a precedent of mandating educational qualifications as a key requirement for contesting in elections.