Despite the fact that the constitution of India has not prescribed any educational qualifications to contest for the Parliament and the State Assemblies; various states in India have prescribed minimum qualifications for Panchayat elections. How it affects our grassroot democracy? Discuss while putting Supreme Court observations in light.

Published: March 17, 2016

It has rightly been said that only education gives human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad; still our constitution has not prescribed any mandatory educational qualifications to contest for the Parliament and the State Assemblies.
However, Haryana Panchayati Raj mandated minimum education qualification to contest Panchayat poll like Class X for general candidates, Class VIII pass for women and Dalits, Class V for Dalit women. Similarly, Rajasthanbecame the first state to bring minimum qualification of Class X for contesting the Zilla Parishad or Panchayat Samiti polls. Other states like Bihar have stated possessing a toilet as a criteria for contesting polls.
All these criteria violate A-14 wherein there is not provision of right to vote or contest. It talks about right to equality and such laws made by different states mar the very spirit of right to equality. It also violates A-326 of the Constitution, which stipulates that elections must be conducted on the basis of adult suffrage and constitutional right can be curtailed only on the grounds specified in the constitution and cannot be taken away by statutory laws.
However, Supreme Court has observed the education criteria as logical as it would enable the candidates to think rationally but it has nullified other criterias.
However, civil society activists look upon these laws as unjust as in few states they have disenfranchised Dalit women from contesting Panchayat elections. They opine that instead of empowering, the laws are penalizing in nature.
 The process of empowerment is not just the right to vote but also to contest elections.

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