The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it could not go into the wisdom of Haryana assembly introducing educational qualification as eligibility criteria for the candidates aspiring to contest panchayat elections, saying it could only examine whether the law was compatible with constitutional provisions.
A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre said this as it was told that the amended Haryana Panchayati Raj Act 2015 introduced eligibility criteria for those aspiring to contest panchayat elections in the state – a qualificat ion which was not there for those seeking to enter parliament or state assembly.
The court said that it can’t go into the wisdom of the legislature fixing eligibility criteria for those aspiring to contest panchayat elections in Haryana, as counsel Kirti Singh appearing for the petitioner Rajbala told the court that this was democracy in reverse as what should have come from top and percolated to bottom was being enforced at the grass-root level.
Besides educational background, the amended Haryana Panchayati Raj law provides that those with criminal background, bank arrears and without toilet facilities at home are disqualified from contesting election to panchayats. The candidate in general category should be at least matriculate and under reserved category, have passed class eight.
“What is your constitutional objection to the provision debarring from contesting elections”, the court asked Kirti Singh as she sought to address the court on the deep agrarian crisis affecting the farmers across the state.
As she told the court that those aspiring to become MPs or legislators are not barred even if they are in arrears of statutory dues or defaulters of bank loans but this conditions has been slapped on those seeking to become panchayat members, the court asked if she had any figures of lawmakers in parliament and state assemblies in default.
“Do you have any figures? It would an interesting study,” the court asked her.
Referring to the government’s own statistics, Kirti Singh said that eligibility criteria of education alone would exclude 65 percent of rural voters from the contest and 83 percent of women belonging to the Scheduled Caste category would be out of election fray.
Addressing the court in the question of law, counsel Sanjay Parikh appearing for NGO PUCL told the court that the qualification which Haryana law hasintroduced as eligibility criteria from contesting panchayat elections could not be read into the constitution’s 73rd amendment providing for mandatory panchayati raj institutions as responsive bodies in rural India.
Questioning how non-payments of electricity bill could be a ground for disqualification, he said that there could be a number of reasons for not paying the bill as its delivery was delayed or was exorbitant not reflecting the actual usage.
He said that provision regarding the arrears of primary agricultural co-operative society, banks etc were arbitrary, unreasonable and vague and has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the amended provisions.
He will continue his arguments on Thursday.