Justifying its new law mandating minimum educational qualification as a pre-requisite for contesting panchayat polls, the Haryana government has invoked a Supreme Court’s three-judge bench ruling, which had upheld the two child-norm for holding the offices of sarpanch or up-sarpanch in the state.
In its response to the top court on a PIL that had questioned the 2015 legislation, the state government questioned how a law can be faulted with for prescribing minimum educational qualification as a condition when another legislation imposing the two child-norm had been sanctioned by the top court.
Submitting its counter affidavit pursuant to the court notice, the state relied upon the 2003 ruling in Javed vs State of Haryana wherein the apex court upheld the Haryana Municipal (Second Amendment) Act, 1994. By this amendment, the Haryana government had introduced a “disqualification” for being chosen as a sarpanch or a panch of a gram panchayat or a member of a panchayat samiti or zila parishad if a contesting candidate or a serving member had more than two children.
The top court had hailed the “legislative wisdom” behind enacting this legislation, which it said, “would go a long way in ameliorating health, social and economic conditions of rural population” as it was “consistent with the National Population Policy” and “in public interest”.
Citing this judgment, the state government has now told a two-judge bench led by Justice J Chelameswar that based on the same yardsticks, the new law, The Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, is constitutionally valid. The new law requires that general candidates must have passed class X examinations while women and Dalit candidates need to have cleared class VIII and V respectively.
The state argued that the two-judge bench, which had recently stayed the operation of the new law and would hear the case on Wednesday, cannot overrule the principles approved by a three-judge bench in 2003 while upholding the two-child norm.
It responded to an averment in the PIL as to how the new law is not discriminatory although minimum educational qualification is not a criterion for electing MPs and MLAs.
It argued a law made by one state cannot be struck down on the ground of violating Article 14 (right to equality) because the sources of power are different and so do differ those who exercise the power.
About alleged violation of fundamental right of life and liberty, the government asserted that right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right but only a statutory right and hence a state would be within its authority to frame legislation prescribing for necessary qualifications for contesting polls.