Polity and Governance

The legality of fixing the educational qualification in local elections

Educational qualification for Local elections
•Rajasthan Government has scrapped educational criteria for Panchayat Raj Election
•The previous Vasundhara Raje-led government had introduced education criterion in 2015 which required a candidate to pass Class X for contesting zila parishad, panchayat samiti and municipal elections.
•For contesting elections for sarpanch of a panchayat in scheduled and non-scheduled areas, it was mandatory to pass Class V and VIII, respectively.
Constitutional Provisions
•73rd amendment of Constitution provided for the mandatory constitution of Panchayati Raj Institution as third tier of Government
•Article 243K of Indian Constitution empowers State Government to appoint State Election Commission and lay down qualification for elections to local bodies
•Article 243O bars the interference by courts in electoral matters
Article 243K of Indian Constitution
•The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in a State Election Commission
•State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor
•Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Legislature of a State may, by law, make provision with respect to all matters relating to, or in connection with, elections to the Panchayats
State Election Commissioner
•Subject to the provisions of any law made by the Legislature of a State, the conditions of service and tenure of office of the State Election Commissioner shall be such as the Governor may by rule determine:
     •Provided that the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of a High Court and the conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment
•The Governor of a State shall, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions  
Article 243O
•Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution
     (a) the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies made or purporting to be made under article 243K, shall not be called in question in any court;
     (b) no election to any Panchayat shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as is provided for by or under any Law made by the legislature of a State PART IX A THE MUNICIPALITIES
Other States Passing Similar Law
•Haryana Government passed Haryana Panchayat Raj Amendment Act 2015 to provide minimum qualification for those contesting Panchayat Raj elections
•Assam and Uttarakhand have also brought legislation to provide minimum qualification for local elections
Judicial Pronouncement 
•In December 2015, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in Rajbala v. the State of Haryana upheld the validity of the amendments to the Haryana Panchayat Raj Act.
•Apex court held that prescription of educational qualification is relevant for “better administration of the panchayats”.
•The Bench consisting of Justice Chelameswar and A.M.Sapre held that both the rights namely "Right to Vote" and "Right to Contest" are not fundamental Rights but only constitutional rights of the citizen. So, the minimum qualification for contesting election can be imposed.
The Key Points of SC Judgements
•The Right to Vote and Right to Contest are neither fundamental rights, nor merely statutory rights, but are Constitutional Rights. Further, the Right to Contest can be regulated and curtailed through laws passed by the appropriate legislature.
•It is not possible to invalidate a statute only on the grounds that the law is arbitrary, unreasonable or disproportionate because judging arbitrariness and reasonability requires value-judgments that are beyond the scope of judicial competence, it is best left to the wisdom of the legislatures.
•The Court opined that, “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 Panchayats.”

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