New Rajasthan govt’s move is a welcome one

Rajasthan will once again have direct elections for mayors  and chairpersons in urban municipal bodies.

The education criteria were introduced by the previous government, which stipulated that for contesting the Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti polls, a contestant must have a minimum qualification of secondary education (Class X).

To contest the sarpanch elections, an aspirant from the general category must have passed Class VIII and an SC/ST aspirant must have passed Class V.

Few experts are of the opinion that the requirement of minimum qualification for contesting elections is against the very spirit of 73rd and 74th amendments.

It also violates the right of every citizen to vote and to contest elections, which form the basic structure of the constitution.

It may be noted here that due to these restrictions, many able candidates were debarred from contesting elections. In one way, it can be said that this law has prevented many people from coming to the mainstream.

What has the Supreme Court said in this regard?

  • Even Haryana had passed a similar law mandating minimum education qualification for those contesting in Panchayat Raj Institutions. The constitutional validity of this law of Haryana was questioned in the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of the law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state. The Supreme Court had ruled that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.
  • The Supreme Court’s interpretation is based on the fact that uneducated or illiterate people getting elected to the local bodies can easily be misled by officials if they don’t know to write and read. In such cases, administrative actions that they are going can pose many challenges. The Court has further observed that it is only the education which can give people the power to differentiate between right and wrong, and good and bad.
  • Rajasthan Literacy Rate 2011: Literacy rate in Rajasthan has seen an upward trend and is 66.11 percent as per 2011 population census. Of that, male literacy stands at 79.19 percent while female literacy is at 52.12 percent. In 2001, the literacy rate in Rajasthan stood at 60.41 percent.
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