An election less democratic

Haryana panchayat poll outcome does not reflect the state’s social composition

Written by Kirti Singh | Published: February 1, 2016 12:20 am
haryana, haryana panchayat poll, haryana panchayat poll rules, hayana poll rules, haraya election rules, haryana panchayat election rules, haryana news, india news One possible repercussion of the amendments may well be that enough candidates, particularly SCs and women, will not be available to contest elections. (Express Archive)

The panchayat elections in Haryana have yielded results drastically different from previous elections. This is because a large number of persons were barred from contesting these elections due to educational and other disqualifications introduced through amendments by the Haryana assembly in September last year.

In the widely criticised Rajbala and others vs State of Haryana judgment, the Supreme Court upheld these disqualifications. These amendments stipulate that a person has to pass the matriculation examination to contest. However, a woman candidate or a Scheduled Caste (SC) candidate has only to pass Class 8 and an SC woman is required to pass Class 5 for the post of panch.

The amendments also disqualify a person who has no toilet, has not paid electricity dues or dues to a primary agricultural cooperative society, district central co-operative bank, etc. The respondents (state of Haryana, etc) had themselves provided data to show that out of the 67,827 candidates who had been elected in the last panchayat elections, 20,392 (30.06 per cent) were illiterate while 25,334 candidates (37.35 per cent) had not even studied up to the matriculate level.

The petitioners had provided data from the 2011 Census to show that educational qualification itself would debar an astounding majority of persons from contesting the polls. The petitioner’s disaggregated data from the census presented to the court showed that the disqualification excluded 55.63 per cent of non-SC men, 68.65 per cent of non-SC women, 62.16 per cent of SC men, and 83.06 per cent of SC women and 67.52 per cent of SC women for the post of an ordinary panch. The state of Haryana had provided inaccurate and misleading statistical data, which included all those who had studied up to Class 5 and above and claimed only 43 per cent people would be disqualified.

These amendments will exclude the poor and the most marginalised from contesting local bodies elections. These persons, particularly the women, were not educated due to reasons of poverty and the failure of the state to provide them schools, teachers and the necessary infrastructure. Haryana passed the Right to Education (RTE) rules only in 2011. This means persons who are now over 20 and are eligible to contest would not have benefited from the RTE Act.

This is particularly ironic as the 73rd constitutional amendment, which introduced panchayati raj had provided a legal framework for a representative democracy to function at the grassroots through direct elections. The amendment recognised that there was not sufficient representation of SCs and Scheduled Tribes in the three-tier panchayati raj institutions. It therefore specifically provided for reservations and sought to undo the injustices of the past, and make these institutions more inclusive and replace the “village oligarchy” with the rule of the common man (Bhanumati vs State of UP).

One possible repercussion of the amendments may well be that enough candidates, particularly SCs and women, will not be available to contest elections. The petitioners had argued that education was not necessary to be a person of integrity and commitment to development. They quoted an earlier SC judgment that had held that character and commitment and concern for welfare of the people were more important. The petitioners themselves were uneducated though literate persons who had been involved in social causes for years, and two of them had been exemplary panchayat representatives.

The SC judgment however held, “It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of educational qualification is relevant for better administration…” As far as the other criteria were concerned, the SC held there was “no harm” in disqualifying persons who had not paid their debts since insolvents were also barred. That Haryana had a high degree of indebtedness in cultivator families and the state was in the midst of an agricultural crisis due to unseasonal rain and consequent crop failure, leading to a large number of suicides, did not make a dent in the court.

Another discriminatory aspect was those who had taken huge amounts of agricultural loans from commercial banks were not disqualified from contesting. The fact that poverty and homelessness were also reasons for not having a toilet was also disbelieved by the court, which squarely blamed the people for not fulfilling the criteria.

The writer, a Delhi-based lawyer, represented the petitioners in ‘Rajbala’

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. K
    Feb 1, 2016 at 11:03 am
    The provisions would exclude a sizeable part of the poor specially the lower castes from electoral process. This might be a jolt to the much publicised 'sab kaa saat' as most of those need to be 'saath' are being left out of the ambit.
    1. P
      Feb 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm
      Though the 73rd consutional amendment was made and due representation was given to the Dalits and adivasis, there is higher caste lobby to defeat the purpose of this amendment. It includes high caste politicians, bureaucrats and planners who have occupied top most positions and want to continue to do so. Hence they are coming with the fancy ideas like educational qualification and other criterias. Larger bench of Supreme Court should take up the matter and give relief to Dalits and Adivasis who are the poorest of the poor.
      1. Amit Pandey
        Feb 3, 2016 at 3:52 am
        Is the writer venting out his frustration? From what I can see disqualification "included" 44.37 per cent of non-SC men, 31.5 per cent of non-SC women, 37.84 per cent of SC men, and 16.94 per cent of SC women and 32.48 per cent of SC women for the post of an ordinary panch. Also I don't know why SC women were repeated twice? But they are posing for elections... Do 100s of people stand up for elections of a Panch? Given the potion of specific castes, the percentages is misleading, as actual numbers could vary more. I would say good move by Haryana Government - an Educated Panch would better help implement Government Schemes read about it, educate people about it. This would also propel people to get basic education so they are literate. Overall I find the author pathetic.
        1. D
          Feb 1, 2016 at 9:20 am
          If we start counting 99.999% of us are disqualified from being doctors. A greater number of us are disqualified from pronouncing sentences and sending people to jail. The right to vote is universal, the right to representation in a law making body like the legislatures have similarly not been meddled with. However, the local body functionaries are just that - they have a function to perform, most of it administrative. It is hard to believe that a lack of education will not affect job performance. This is a convenient spin on what the actual facts are. And, in any case, this is a mattered settled in the highest court of law. For the lawyer of the litigants to persist with a counter-point on the record serves to lower the dignity of the supreme court.
          1. G
            G M
            Jan 31, 2016 at 8:33 pm
            After Panchayti Raj Bill by Rajiv hi, panchayats have become very rich . Therefore aspirants have increased viz a viz animosity. Many peoples are murdered due to this lucrative time p ignment. No doubt education is empower for the betterment of society. A welcome move
            1. Load More Comments