Panchayat polls: SC refuses to entertain Rajasthan ordinance

Panchayat polls: SC refuses to entertain Rajasthan ordinance

The Supreme Court today refused to entertain petitions challenging an ordinance recently passed by the Rajasthan Government mandating varied educational qualification for candidates to contest elections at different level of panchayats, saying that High Court was the forum for addressing these issues.

"Go and challenge the vires of the ordinance in Rajasthan High Court," a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said while declining to extend by two days the deadline of filing the nominations till the matter is taken up in the High Court.

The court was informed that filing of nominations for the first phase of elections for sarpanch, panchayat samiti and zila parishad was coming to an end tomorrow.
The Bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal, asked PIL petitioners including social activist Aruna Roy and a sarpanch that they should first approach the High Court and if required they can come to the apex court.

The bench did not agree with their counsel and senior advocates Raju Ramachandaran and Anand Grover that there was an urgency in moving the Supreme Court due to vacation in the Rajasthan High Court.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi opposed the two PILs, also filed by Naurti Bai, the sarpanch of Harmada village in Ajmer who is an uneducated Dalit woman, contending that now the High Court has reopened after the vacation and six petitions opposing the December 24, 2014 Ordinance is listed for hearing.

The bench said these two petitioners can also approach the High Court and seek an urgent hearing.

The apex court was told that mandating educational qualification for contesting polls would take away the rights of the people, particularly of women as in many segments 90 per cent of them have no education.

For sarpanchs, the ordinance fixed class VIII as the minimum qualification and in scheduled areas it is Class V.

For contesting zila parishad and panchayat samiti polls the education qualification is Class X pass.

The petitions said that 80 per cent of the Rajasthan rural electorate will not be able to contest the polls as they do not meet the norms and about 95 per cent women electorate will be similarly disqualified.

They also claimed that of the current block members, the ordinance will render ineligible around 3,800 of the 5,000 and similarly disqualify 550 of the 1,000 zila parishad members.

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