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Case Commentary on Rajbala v/s State of Haryana

Rajbala V. State Of Haryana

  1. Whether an Act or Amendment can be held Unconstitutional on the ground of Arbitrariness
  2. Whether the Right to Vote and the Right to contest an election is a Constitutional right or a Statutory right.
  3. Constitutional validity of the Amendment in the year 2015 to the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act 1994.
  4. Can an Act become Unconstitutional if it disqualifies a large section of society from contesting elections.

The first issue stipulated above is whether an Act by the legitimate constitutional authority or either house of parliament or state legislature can be held Unconstitutional on the ground of Arbitrariness. The answer to this issue was elaborately discussed in several rationales provided in numerous cases by the Apex court, starting from the division bench of three judges in the case of McDowell & Co[1]. in this case the contention was the Andra Pradesh liquor Prohibition Amendment Act 1995, in which some spirit manufacturing companies raised the issue that the Act has exempted certain classes of manufacturer and consumer from the ban.

It has been contended by the petitioner to be arbitrary. In answer to this, the learned judges of the court held that the court can hold an act unconstitutional based on two bases, if there is any violation of fundamental rights conferred by the Part-3 of the constitution and if there is any lack of legislative competency. The court in the strict sense held that no Act or piece of legislation could be stroked away solely based on arbitrary or unreasonable.

Another case was Subramaniam Swami v CBI[2], the contention, in this case, was Section-6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which states that there should be no inquiry and investigation on the employee of the central government to any offense related to corruption which is alleged to have been committed by them. As stated in the above case the court cannot question the legislature unless the two-ingredient but in the present scenario that Act was held unconstitutional not based on Arbitrary but because this act was making an unreasonable distinction between the same class of employee.

In another case of Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice v. Bar Council Of India[3], the question was the validity of the Amendment brought by the Bar Council of India which stipulated their maximum age limit of enrollment was 45 years.

This rule was challenged on various grounds like competency of the Bar Council of India to make such a rule, next to that the prescribed age of 45 was Arbitrary. The court held that since the Bar Council of India is not Competent to make any rule regarding the same then the rule is automatically held Unconstitutional without going deep into the scrutiny of other issues and grounds.

In the case of Prabhakar Rao v. state of Andra Pradesh[4], the fact was that the ordinance of 1984 increased the age of retirement from 55 to 58 after several amendments and ordinances and later on became the Act but during this exercise of the legislature some employee was not given proper benefits of pension. Hence in this case it was held that since the state legislature which has unreasonably and without any rationale made a classification between the two classes of employees of the state government is held unconstitutional.

In some cases where it was held that arbitrariness is antithetical to equality is held unconstitutional is of dissenting opinion like in the case of Menaka Gadhi.

The next issue raised by the petitioner was regarding the right to vote and the right to contest elections. As we all are very well aware since the constitutional post and its election is liable to some qualification and disqualification attached to this election and are also determined by the Constitution in its various provisions. So from this fact only it is clear that the right to contest an election is in no way a fundamental right. Now the honorable court in various cases held that the right to contest an election is merely a Constitutional right.

In PUCL v. Union of India[5], the issue raised was the validity of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 which automatically require a person contesting an election to give the details about himself before filling the nomination paper to contest the election, and hence it was held that the right to contest an election is a constitutional right. whereas in the case of DMDK V. Election commission of India the contention was the regional party was demanding an election symbol permanently and the hon'ble court held that no party can be allotted any symbol permanently unless the party satisfies the norms under the symbol order. And there was no disagreement regarding the decision that both the right (right to vote and right to contest) is a constitutional right.

The last issue which was raised was that if the act makes a large chunk of the population disabled to contest election will it be valid or not. So to answer this question a proper analysis regarding the population and the amendment which made this will be discussed. So in Haryana Panchayati Raj amendment act of 2015 added 5 clauses namely, aa, t, u, v, w to section 175(1). Clause v of section 175(1) states that to contest an election for panchayat or Zila Parishad post in local self-government must have completed matrix for general male while some relaxation was given to female of sc/st community and other depressed class.

The data submitted by the petitioner was that approximately 1.16 crore population lives in rural areas of Haryana out of which 96 lacks are above 20 years which makes which constitutes 57% of the population.

Out of which approximately 37% population was debarred from contesting the election. To answer this question learned judges delivered the rationale that in other way constitution prescribes certain disqualification to contest the election and it is very clear from the fact that every voter is not eligible to contest election for every post and in such a scenario if those who are disqualified are small in number it does not make any difference. The numerical dimension of disqualification does not affect the validity of disqualification imposed by the act unless the disqualification is of such a nature that it would lead to no election of such a post in the constitution.

The amendment in question is regarding the addition of clauses in section 175(1) which are clauses t, u, v, w, aa. Petitioner submitted to the court a writ petition regarding the clauses t, u, v, w which are defined in the following:
  • 175(1) (v) states that if a person wants to contest the election for the post of Zila Parishad and gram panchayat must have some educational qualification.
  • 175(1) (t) and (u) state that those who have arrears in village civic body or electricity bills are debarred from contesting the election.
  • 175(1) (w) states that disqualification of members or voters who don't have functional toilets at their residence or houses.

Petitioner's Arguments:
The submission made by the petitioner regarding these clauses was that by the said act which made the amendment and added clauses. Regarding clause (v) the petitioner submitted that the said act will debar approximately more than 50% of the rural population to contest elections otherwise who were eligible.

In addition to this, they submitted that the Act makes a distinction between the class of people intelligible differentia and without any nexus with the object sought to be achieved. Regarding clause (t), (u) the contention raised by the petitioner was that it imposes an unreasonable burden on the voter who was otherwise eligible to contest before the amendment came into force. And to support this argument they put forward a report which suggests that a large fraction of the rural population is heavily indebted and thus makes an unreasonable distinction that has no relation to the objective of the act.

Regarding clause (w) it is stated by the petitioner that the condition laid down by the amendment is a functional toilet at the place of his residence which makes a large section of eligible contestants disqualified. The reason being to this is that a large section of the rural population is not economically sound to construct a toilet at their residence which makes it impossible for them to contest the election and it makes the intelligible and unreasonable distinction between a large number of eligible candidates and lack of nexus with the objective sought to be achieved.

Respondent's Arguments:
The learned attorney general submitted to every question, beginning with the first clause regarding the educational qualification. It is submitted by the learned counsel that the post of Gram panchayat discharges the function regarding tax and duties relevant to the discharge function of the panchayat. To support his argument it is submitted that it is the education that enables a person to distinguish between the nuances of good and bad and discriminate between right and wrong.

Regarding the clause (t) and (u) concerned with the arrears of cooperative bodies and electricity bills, it is fairly submitted by the learned counsel that election is an expensive phenomenon not only in India but in other nations too. With this expensive practice, no person who is in debt would contest the election. And the indebtedness of poor rural farmers is witnessed in the number of cases leading to the suicide of farmers but this is not the case in Haryana because in this state the agriculture sector is prosperous enough to lead a life without debt.

And if a person wants to contest an election then neither an act nor any authority has barred anyone to make arrangements to make payment and clear all dues so that he could contest an election.

The submission to the last issue was that the government has come up with financial assistance for those who are not economically sound to construct a functional toilet at their place of residence. And if with such steps taken by the government the construction is not being carried out then the reason is a lack of will not the financial constraint. Again it is submitted that it has reasonable nexus with the object sought to achieved by stipulating that the post of gram panchayat is a very crucial post to make a village developed one. To set an example for the civic body to maintain hygiene in their area, the person contesting must first take steps and set an example for others.

It is clear from the above debate that the courts are not there to make a piece of legislation invalid solely based on arbitrariness. By the series of cases discussed above it is very clear that there must be two conditions to make any act unconstitutional i.e. lack of competency on the part of the legislature or the act is violative of any of the fundamental rights conferred by the part 3 of the constitution.

Later on, in the writ petition, the main question was the amendment. Before jumping on that the criteria of the two rights right to vote and the right to contest an election are in question whether they constitutional or statutory rights? The court stipulated that these two rights are constitutional and merely a legal right in the light of the constitution and elaborative discussion with a series of cases discussed above.

At last, the court decided that the amendment to the act in question is intra vires to the constitution by putting forward the rationales like the post of a panchayat which is discussed in part 9th of the constitution stipulates the function of taxation and utilization of funds for development work in the constituency and to effectively carry on his duty education plays a vital role.

To maintain the sanitation the leader must set an example for others by constructing the toilet and at last, they supported the argument raised by the council on behalf of the respondent that no law stops the contestant to contest the election. But they must make arrangements to make payment of the arrears of cooperative bodies

In my opinion, the amendment was the need of the hour because if the rudimentary class of population is well-governed and their development is taken properly then ultimately it would lead to upliftment of the society altogether.

  1. State of A.P. v. McDowell & Co., (1996) 3 SCC 709
  2. Subramanian Swamy v. CBI, (2014) 8 SCC 682
  3. Indian council of legal aid and advice v. bar council of India 1995 SCC (1) 732
  4. B. Prabhakar Rao v. the State of A.P., 1985 Supp SCC 432
  5. People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India, (2003) 4 SCC 399

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Prashant Shukla

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Authentication No: JU217384992414-22-0622

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