The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Haryana law which would make 83 percent of Dalit women and 71 percent of women in general ineligible to participate in grassroots democracy.
The Supreme Court upheld amendments to a law that the Haryana Assembly passed earlier this year. Elections to panchayats scheduled for October were postponed after the All India Democratic Women’s Association approached the Supreme Court in September and obtained a stay order.
Under the amended law, candidates must fulfil certain criteria such as minimum literacy standards, they should not have any criminal convictions, no outstanding electricity dues or loan repayments, and must have a working toilet, NDTV reported.
For men, the minimum education qualification was to pass Class 10, for women of the General Category Class 8, and for Scheduled Caste women, it is Class 5.
A report in The Hindu quoted statistics which showed that 83 percent of Dalit women, 71 percent of general category women and 56 percent of men in Haryana would not be eligible to contest panchayat elections under these criteria.
According to the 2011 Census, Haryana’s position on literacy rate is 22 (states and union territories included) at 75 percent. The state also has the worst sex ratio among the states with 879 women for every 1,000 men. Four union territories fare even worse than Haryana on sex ratio. Women's litearcy in 2011 was 66 percent, compared to male literary which is 84 percent. A decade ago, just 55 percent of women were literate in Haryana.
The Hindu said that advocate Kirti Singh represented a group of candidates who were affected by the law. Singh told the court that the RTE had not been implemented in the state until 2010, and that none of the candidates had benefitted from it. He also told the court that in India, primary and secondary education was “hardly available”.