On December 1, Manisha Patel, 35-year-old BJP councillor at south Gujarat’s Valsad Nagarpalika, lost her job after it was established that she had given birth to a third child after being elected to the post. The government of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had, in 2005-06, brought in amendments to law, disqualifying anyone with more than two children from contesting elections to bodies of local self-government — panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations. PARIMAL DABHI explains Gujarat’s two-child election requirement.
The Gujarat government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act in 2005, which in effect amended three acts: the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, the Gujarat Municipalities Act and the Gujarat Panchayats Act.
According to the ‘Objects & Reasons’ clause in the amended Act: “Growth of (India’s) population… is alarming. In order to stabilize (it), it is considered necessary to amend the local authorities laws so as to prevent a person having more than two children to be a member of panchayat, or the councillor of a municipality or… municipal corporation. This is an important step towards the implementation of national population policy.”
A person with more than two children cannot contest elections to these institutions. If a person is found to have a third child after being elected, he/she will be disqualified by the competent authority.
The Act was implemented in August 2006 with prospective effect. A provision was made to ensure that persons with more than two children prior to the commencement of the Act would be exempt.
The Act applies to 14,000 gram panchayats, 26 district panchayats, 223 taluka panchayats, 159 nagarpalikas and eight municipal corporations in Gujarat. The panchayats are under the rural development department; municipalities and municipal corporations are under the urban development department. Different authorities at each level ensure implementation of the two-child norm.
HOW THE LAW HAS WORKED
The Act could result in the rejection of a candidature for election, lead to disqualification of an elected member, or be the reason for
the denial of a party ticket to a candidate. Cases arising out of the working of the law have been argued in the Gujarat High Court and Supreme Court. Some examples:
KANU PATEL, Vadodara
The two-term BJP councillor at Vadodara Municipal Corporation was denied a ticket after the Act came into force. “I was expecting to become a father for the third time in three months’ time, when councillors were intimated by the party about the law. The party did not ask me to resign after my third child was born, but it was made clear to me that I would not be given a ticket again,” Patel said. He said he had been offered the post of convener of the Vadodara Mahanagar Cell, however, and that he had no complaints.
SANJAY DHAVA, Rajkot
The BJP councillor from Ward 23 of Rajkot Municipal Corporation, resigned on October 7, 2013 following the birth of his third child. The 37-year-old Dhava’s wife had given birth to a baby boy in June, but the matter came to light in October through reports in the media. Dhava said he was not aware that birth of a third child even after the election could lead to disqualification.
RAFIK MAKRANI, Junagadh
The BJP was stunned in July this year after election officials rejected the nomination papers of its candidate Rafik Makrani for Ward 20 of Junagadh Municipal Corporation. During scrutiny, it was found that Makrani had six children from two wives. Papers of an independent candidate too were rejected from the same ward, thus paving the way for Congress candidate Satish Virda to be elected unopposed.
ZAPADIYA CHANDUBHAI, Surendranagar
Chandubhai was elected sarpanch of the gram panchayat in Habetpur village in Surendranagar district, but was disqualified after his wife gave birth to their third child. Zapadiya challenged the disqualification until Gujarat High Court, saying his third child had been adopted by his elder brother, but got no relief.
ZAKIR SHAH, Surat
The BJP candidate for Shahpore ward of Surat Municipal Corporation in the election of 2010 had submitted a false affidavit before the electoral officer, saying his four children were born before 2005. The Congress produced the birth certificate of Shah’s fifth child, born on September 26, 2009, and his candidature was rejected.
If a couple have only one child on or after the date of commencement of the Act, any number of children born out of single subsequent delivery are deemed to be one entity If the child or children are adopted
Some have complained that it is unfair to restict the two-child norm only to local bodies. Congress corporator and Leader of Opposition in Vadodara Municipal Corporation, Chandrakant Srivastava, said: “Why only corporators, the rule should be applicable to all those who seek votes from public.”