Education qualification: Mandatory for Panchayat elections

‘It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad’.                                                                                                                                                          - Supreme Court of India

Under Articles 40 and 246(3), the Constitution grants powers to the states to make laws to enable the functioning of self-government units.

Haryana and Rajasthan are the states who mandate to ‘fix minimum education qualification for those contesting in Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI’s)’. 

Haryana is not the first state to introduce such requirements. In December 2014, Rajasthan brought in the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, which provides for a minimum qualification for contesting the zilla parishad, panchayat samiti and sarpanch elections.

In August 2015, the Bihar assembly also passed amendments making it mandatory for candidates contesting panchayat polls to have toilets in their homes.

Following are the qualifications which have to be met for contesting elections to the local bodies:

• For general candidate men must have passed class X, class VIII for women and Scheduled cast/ST, class V for schedule cast/ST women for elections contesting in the Zila Parishad, Panchay Samiti and Post of the Sarpanch.

• The candidate must have the functional toilet in his/her home.

• There should not be any insolvency or failure to pay the arrears in any case such as, like to any cooperative society, any bank or electricity bill.

• The candidate must be clean in character likewise there should not be any charge sheet filed which may lead to imprisonment of upto 10 years against the candidate in any court in India.

• In case of Rajasthan, the candidate must not be the Leprosy Patient.

Why these provisions have been notified?

• It ensures that candidate with basic education enables to more effectively discharge various duties which befall the elected representatives.

• One of the primary duties of civic body is to maintain sanitation within its jurisdictions however, it will help to curb the untouchability as most of these toilets in villages are open pits or with septic tanks, about 1.5 lakh women clean human excreta in the country service by manual scavenging. It also helps to curb the open defecation in the rural India.

• To promote and spread  the literacy level in the society  specially women education giving greater importance due to the new rule, furthermore men’s  are changing their tendency to marry with the educated girls without even taking dowry so that women can stand for the elections even for the general seats.  Ultimately this situation leads to creation of better consensus among people.

• This new norms have help to reinforce the gender imbalance in the Grass root level of the society.

• It meant to elect model representatives for local self government for better administrative efficiency. By setting example to others one who aspires to get elected in civic bodies and administration can get the education and learning benefits to rule the smooth and effective functioning of the offices with much of responsibility and their own power of intelligent.

• Rural India is reeling under agrarian debts and farmers are committing suicide to escape the debt trap. Somehow this qualification may be stand as resolving the debt burden and debt trap.

How this qualification is meaningful for these states?

• Haryana consists total 1.65 crores as a rural population out of it 96 lakh are above the 20 years considering the 21 is minimum age limit in India foe contesting in the local bodies election. With effect of passing the Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act 2015 in the state, the total of 57% population is entitled to participate in the PRI’s election in Haryana. 

• 600 million people practicing open defecation in India, approximately 70% of the villagers practice it willfully or under any circumstances are ineligible to context in local bodies’ election which gives a message to improving access to sanitation and help indirectly to proposed indicator for the sustainable development goal.

• Out of 8.5 lakh families, who live below the poverty line in Haryana, 7.2 lakh have constructed toilets at home with financial help from the State government.

Supreme Court Verdict

Upholding the constitutional validity of a law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state, the Supreme Court ruled  that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.

The top court stated that it would be valid for the legislature to disqualify a candidate from seeking election to a civic body if he or she lacks “basic norms of hygiene” by not having a functional toilet at home.


• More than half of the women and 68% of the Schedule cast/ST women and 41% of the Schedule Cast/ ST men cannot contest in these local elections.

• Education is beneficial to implement the government policies in appropriate way but one can say that, this is a failure of government machineries who overburden with  the things of inefficiencies  with poor results of the PRI’s and now it transfer to the citizen’s mandate on the form of the  education compulsion.  

The Panchayat Law is discriminatory and such criteria are arbitrary. Experience has shown that wisdom plays a greater role than education at local governance level, especially villages. Although more educated people should be part of the political system, more ground reforms are needed before such a law is implemented. The intent is right but other factors also need to be looked into. It is always good that more educated people become a part of panchayats, but the rest of the systems including something as basic as education and sanitation should be put in place first. Nothing can be so alienated from reality. 

This verdict completely ignores the outstanding work done by many uneducated leaders, despite having the illiterate they played the major role in bringing the developmental procedure with the effective implementation based on the local resources and local common and cultural knowledge and experience and are closely connected with their constituents.