SC upholds Haryana law which makes education must for panchayat candidates

The Haryana state government had turned down a suggestion to drop the educational criteria

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: December 11, 2015 4:31 am
supreme court, supreme court news, haryana panchayat polls, haryana educational criteria, haryana election educational qualification, haryana panchayat elections, india news Haryana government has asserted that right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right but only a statutory right

Upholding the constitutional validity of a law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.

The top court also said it would be perfectly valid for the legislature to disqualify a candidate from seeking election to a civic body if he or she lacks “basic norms of hygiene” by not having a functional toilet at home.

Delivering the verdict, which may pave the way for introduction of minimum education as a prerequisite for contesting polls at various levels, 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.

Apart from Haryana, Rajasthan is the only other state to fix minimum education qualifications for those contesting panchayat polls.


The bench dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015. The Act requires that general candidates must have passed Class X examination while women and Dalit candidates need to have cleared Class VIII. Dalit women candidates must clear Class V.

The bench acknowledged that the minimum education criteria may disqualify a significant populace from contesting panchayat polls but underlined that neither the state government lacked the power to enact such a law nor could it be quashed for being arbitrary or discriminatory because the classification is reasonable and based on intelligible differentia.

“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.

Part IX relates to the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions and was added to the Constitution by the 73rd Amendment in 1993.

“It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration of the panchayats,” the bench said.

It held that the right to vote and right to contest in an election are “constitutional” rights but it cannot be disputed either that both the rights can be regulated and curtailed by the appropriate legislature directly.

“Every person who is entitled to vote is not automatically entitled to contest for every office under the Constitution. Constitution itself imposes limitations on the right to contest depending upon the office. It also authorises the prescription of further disqualifications with respect to the right to contest,” the bench said.

It pointed out that when the Constitution itself stipulated certain disqualifications such as mental fitness and insolvency for occupying some offices, it cannot be said that more disqualifications by a competent legislative body would not be permissible if it does not lead to a situation where holding of elections to these various bodies becomes completely impossible.

The bench also upheld another criterion which disqualifies a person from contesting panchayat election — not having a functional toilet in his or her house.

While the petitioners claimed a large number of rural population cannot afford to have a toilet at their residence as it is beyond their economic means, the bench noted that the state government is now giving Rs 12,000 to every household for construction of a toilet.

It also took note of a submission by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who defended the law for Haryana government, that out of 8.5 lakh households classified to be below the poverty line, approximately 7.2 lakh households had availed the benefit of the scheme.

“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.

“To the said end, if the legislature stipulates that those who are not following basic norms of hygiene are ineligible to become administrators of the civic body and disqualifies them as a class from seeking election to the civic body, such a policy, in our view, can neither be said to create a class based on unintelligible criteria,” it noted.

About another provision in the Act to disqualify those who still have arrears of any loan or electricity bills, the court said that an inquiry into indebtedness of distressed farmers would be “irrelevant” for deciding the constitutionality of the impugned provision.

“We are also not very sure as to how many of such people who are so deeply indebted would be genuinely interested in contesting elections whether at panchayat level or otherwise. We can certainly take judicial notice of the fact that elections at any level in this country are expensive affairs. In such a case the possibility of a deeply indebted person seeking to contest elections should normally be rare as it would be beyond the economic capacity of such persons. In our opinion, the challenge is more theoretical than real,” it said.

Click here to read in Hindi

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. V
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:48 am
    “We are also not very sure as to how many of such people who are so deeply indebted would be genuinely interested in contesting elections whether at panchayat level or otherwise. We can certainly take judicial notice of the fact that elections at any level in this country are expensive affairs" Am i the only person to get shocked after reading the above opinion from supreme court judges? The above opinion intend to say that the right to contest should be available only for the rich people . This is clearly "UNDEMOCRATIC".
    1. S
      Dec 10, 2015 at 1:12 pm
      Good decision by SC in support of the progressive legislation by Haryana embly ...
      1. B
        Dec 11, 2015 at 1:37 am
        Guys, read between lines. The law is to ensure only upper cl people who can afford education, including brahmin perverts, to get elected and rule. DOWN WITH THE JUDGEMENT!!!
        1. A
          Dec 11, 2015 at 1:34 am
          1. P
            Dec 10, 2015 at 10:38 am
            similar law was ped by Rajasthan government previous year. It was also upheld by Rajasthan High Court. It might not be incorrect to say that it is a progressive step but at the same time, state governments should not be oblivious to the fact, that, it because of lack of implementation of their state's educational policies that most of the people are still backward and uneducated. State governments might consider rectifying this educational imbalance before implementing such laws.
            1. A
              Dec 10, 2015 at 12:10 pm
              Now sufficient facilties do exist for educating the mes..they may not be high cl....this act will encourage/force potential candidates ,who want to rule,to study.Education does help in developement of mind and exposure to Worldly realities
              1. A
                Anil Tandale
                Dec 10, 2015 at 7:11 am
                Qualifications should now be made compulsory for emblies Councils and both Houses of Parliament, as the future challenges would fail.
                1. A
                  Anuj Gupta
                  Dec 10, 2015 at 5:32 pm
                  What a report m up by this news agency. Sitting in English and opently support illiterate ? ?
                  1. A
                    Arshad Ajmal
                    Dec 10, 2015 at 6:50 am
                    Please prescribe examination with personal interview by courts for aspiring candidates contesting elections as fake degree, degree without knowledge are rampant. This parade is evident in every sphere of life without exception.
                    1. A
                      Ashutosh Kumar
                      Dec 10, 2015 at 8:07 am
                      for MP MLA, minimum qualification should be upsc prelims qualified individual.
                      1. A
                        Avtar Chauhan
                        Dec 10, 2015 at 6:23 am
                        Kudos to the Govt of Haryana ! The land mark decision of the Apex Court in upholding the State of Haryana's proposal in laying down the minimum qualifications, the Supreme Court upholds minimum educational criteria for contesting polls in Haryana - will help all the way in promoting Educational Standard all over Haryana! Congratulations !
                        1. P
                          PN badri
                          Dec 10, 2015 at 9:24 am
                          Giving false information regarding educational qualifications in election affidavit like our HRD minister Smith Irani will serve their personal interest and public interest is defeated is mute question.
                          1. D
                            Dhanasekaran Balasubramanian
                            Dec 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm
                            electoral reforms should begin from top. is it ok to elect an uneducated to the post of mp/prime minister. is panjayat president is superior than prime minister or president of india.
                            1. B
                              Bhagat SIngh
                              Dec 10, 2015 at 5:51 pm
                              Rajat Gupta : a Harvard Graduate : Currently languishing in American Jail for a 2 Year Term has best of the education. He is product of Modern School , Delhi - again best in its cl. But despite the highest & best education , He committed fraud and subsequently jailed in America. Is Education necessary to distinguish between Right OR Wrong ?
                              1. J
                                Dec 14, 2015 at 3:27 am
                                Haryana court was right in its judgement and it should be adopted by all the states . There should be a minimum educational qualification for those in parliament otherwise they may not even realis what they are signing onto . Ignorance cannot be an excuse. Any other job would require an engineer qualification to get into . Celebrity status is not a qualification for politics.
                                1. A
                                  A. Brahmanandam
                                  Dec 10, 2015 at 10:03 am
                                  Suitable verdict by the Supreme Court for the present Political atude. Though there may be some problems in the beginning, which are common for introducing a new system,it is essentially required in view of reducing illiteracy in the country also.
                                  1. D
                                    Durga Prasad
                                    Dec 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm
                                    Good decision. In my opinion 5th or 8th p is not right step for these representatives. Matriculation must be minimum! qualification in this age of Internet worl for all categories.Thanks to learned Judges. Il
                                    1. I
                                      Dec 10, 2015 at 7:18 am
                                      SC and EC should make mandatory min qualification for every electing candidate MP, MLA and even in panchayat election in every states.
                                      1. G
                                        Dec 10, 2015 at 6:55 am
                                        good decision.
                                        1. V
                                          Vensuslaus Jesudason
                                          Dec 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm
                                          The hon. Supreme Court’s decision is right. All the other State governments should make the minimum educational criterion compulsory for contesting elections. It is a progressive step. We expect our law-makers to be literates. This verdict should also spur the national literacy rate.
                                          1. M
                                            Dec 18, 2015 at 7:28 pm
                                            The decision to prescribe educational qualification for panchayat polls will deny the right to contest election to a majority of people across different States. A person with no right to contest an election have no meaning for the right to vote and such a feeling will make him/her lose faith in the democracy. The so called notorious angrez (Britishers) enrolled purely illiterate persons from India in army and provided minimum basic education to them subsequently. How good they were in their approach to the need of common man. But the so called 'apna arrangements' probably never thought the need for doing so and rather took away the democratic universal right to contest election even for democratic insutions. The State governments should educate all the illiterate persons once they get elected in panchayat and embly polls rather than denying them the right to contest elections in order to please semi literates. There also should be an ultimatum of a significant time period before some old system is withdrawn and new system introduced to make the proper mindset of the people to accept the change. The consution provides for a democratic political system. It essentially imply equal right to contest election to all able minded, able hearted and otherwise law abiding people. Able minded does not necessarily mean persons with some educational qualification, it means they should not be insane in simple terms. Prescribing any minimum educational qualification as the criteria for one's eligibility to contest elections will infact deny the democratic right to contest election to a majority of people in country like India. It is for the people to decide whether they wish to elect an illiterate or a literate person for a political office. The democratic spirit has to be preserved and it essentially means the rule of majority without undermining the basic as well as consutional rights of minorities. True meaning of democracy should not be diluted under the illusion created by meritocracy or aristocracy. Slow and steady ripening of a fruit will make it sweeter and more tasty while use of hazardous chemicals to achieve fast ripening may ultimately prove to be disastrous. The people will be missing the opportunity to learn political awakening and socialisation pushing them into deeper ignorance. Panchayat politics is the primary political education for the common man. If people are denied this opportunity of primary education in democratic politics at panchayat levels on any narrow pretext coined by virtue of some short sighted thinking, they will lose faith in democracy and all the political set up ultimately leading to anarchic and orderless conditions in the times to come. And there is no use of half awakening after losing wiser instincts in the process. And in a democratic system everybody must have an undisputed right to contest a poll provided he is not a minor, an insane, bankrupt, established habitual criminal and other disqualifications as prescribed under law irrespective of the level of educational refinement.
                                            1. Load More Comments