New Delhi: A law that set mandatory educational qualifications for candidates contesting Panchayat elections in Haryana was upheld by the Supreme Court today.
According to the law passed on September 7 by the state assembly, while general candidates must have passed class 10 examinations, women and Dalit candidates are required to have cleared class 8 to contest the Panchayat polls. Women from Dalit communities are required to have passed at least class 5.
Candidates should also not have a criminal conviction, no pending electricity bills or loan payments and a working toilet, the law had said.
"It is only the education which gives human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, the prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration of Panchayats," the court said today.
Based on a petition filed by the All India Democratic Women's Association which said the law violated a candidate's right to contest elections, the court had stayed the law in September and issued a notice to the Haryana government seeking its response.
The verdict had postponed the Haryana Panchayat elections, scheduled in October.
The petition against the law said that it made most of the candidates in the state ineligible and is against the constitution.
The law made 84 per cent of Dalit women and 71 per cent of all rural women ineligible to contest and violated equality, the petitioner claimed.
The state had argued law was a small step for improving village administration, literacy levels and sanitation awareness.
"The verdict justifies our stand that villages need educated representatives. This will strengthen democracy at the Panchayat level," a Haryana government spokesperson said.
Jagmati Sangwan, a social activist supporting the petitioner, said, "Though the SC has turned down our plea we will take it to the people's court which is the highest court in democracy. We will take it (the plea) to the government."