The Supreme Court has upheld the amendments made to the Panchayati Raj Act by the Haryana government in September 2015.
The apex court ruling said that "it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad".
Justices J Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre also said that it is valid for the legislature to disqualify the nominee for not having "basic norms of hygiene" at home.
The three petitioners had filed their petition on grounds that the amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act was a violation of Article 14 of the constitution. They challenged the amendment saying that it is "wholly unreasonable and arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. They create unreasonable restrictions on the constitutional right of voters to contest elections under the ACT".
The SC has upheld the Haryana government's amendment stating that it is a "reasonable restriction" on the constitutional right.
The amendment, in September, had created a set of criteria: the candidate contesting the panchayat polls has to pass class tenth if from general category, class eight if Dalit and class five for Dalit women. They would also require having a functional toilet in their homes. Candidates, with ongoing court cases with prison sentences of 10 years and above will not be allowed to contest unless acquitted. Also, the candidate shouldn't have any outstanding electricity bill or co-operative loan payment.
The SC bench said, "The proclaimed object of such classification is to ensure that those who seek election to panchayats have some basic education, which enables them to more effectively discharge various duties which befall the elected representatives. The object sought to be achieved cannot be said to be irrational or illegal or unconnected with the scheme and purpose of the Act or provisions of Part IX of the Constitution."
"Every person who is entitled to vote is not automatically entitled to contest for every office under the Constitution. Constitution itself imposes limitations on the right to contest depending upon the office. It also authorises the prescription of further disqualifications with respect to the right to contest," The Indian Express quoted the bench as saying.