The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 17 September 2015 stayed the implementation of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015. The Act prescribes for minimum educational qualifications for contesting in local bodies' elections.
The SC bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar also issued notices to the Haryana government and the State Election Commission seeking their response in 4 weeks to a petition filed.
The notice was issued after the validity of the Act was challenged by 3 candidates, namely Rajbala from Swami Nagar (Fatehbad district), Kamlesh from Kaimri village (Hisar district) and Preet Singh from Bhambhewa Beri village (Jhajjar district).
They challenged the implementation of the Act on the ground that they were rendered ineligible to contest the ongoing Panchayat elections of the state due to not fulfilling the minimum educational qualification prescribed.
The stay by the apex court shortly after the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to intervene with the law.
What is the Act all about?
The Act that was notified on 8 September 2015, just a day ahead of the nominations opened for the Panchayat polls, fixes matriculation as minimum educational qualification for elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
It fixed matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting the Panchayat elections while the women candidates of general category were prescribed a minimum qualification of middle standard or class 8th.
On the other hand, men contesting in Scheduled caste category were prescribed a minimum qualification of middle standard or class 8th while women in SC category were prescribed a minimum qualification of class 5th.
The amendments also required that candidates should not have any dues in co-operative banks, electricity bills should be paid up and there should be a functional toilet at home.
With the passage of the Act, Haryana had become the second state after Rajasthan to pass such a law prescribing minimum educational qualification foe contesting PRI elections.
Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2014
The Rajasthan Ordinance, promulgated on 20 December 2014, also prescribed minimum educational qualifications to contest in local body elections, and effectively kept out illiterate persons from the democratic process.
The Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme Court by the noted social activist Aruna Roy on the grounds that violated the inclusive spirit of the 73rd and 74th Amendments and served as an exit for illiterate people.
However, the apex court had refused to entertain the petition in January 2015 and had asked the petitioner to approach the state’s high court.
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When: 17 September 2015