Simon Oliver Sinek, a British-American author, motivational speaker and organizational consultant once said that “Leadership is not about the next election, it is about the next generation”. Education in the present time is considered as one of the most important aspect in the development of the nation. Instead it will not be wrong to suggest that education needs to be placed in the basic necessities of our life which includes food and shelter. After taking into consideration, the importance of education for the nation building process, it becomes vital to discuss about the issue that whether our politicians should fulfil the ‘minimum educational qualification’ in order to be qualified as a ‘political candidate’.
The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of India. It is a bicameral legislature composed of the President of India and the two houses: the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The president too exercise these powers only upon the advice of the Prime Minister and his Union Council of Ministers. Most of the nation-building programs and policies are made by the parliament and therefore it is necessary that the members of the same should possess some basic minimum educational qualification since an educated politician can easily find a solution for the problems. He can think of many ideas. Only a good educated leader can lead a country since He/she will have many ideas to develop the nation.
Qualifications and Disqualifications to become an MP/MLA:
As per the Indian Constitution, a person is qualified to be a member of parliament provided he is a citizen of India. Has completed 30 years of age in case of Rajya Sabha and 25 years in case of Lok Sabha. The candidate must also fulfill the obligations as elaborated under the Representation of People Act (1951). Also, he/she should not suffer from any disqualification prescribed either by the constitution or a law made by Parliament. Although under the heads of Qualifications and Disqualifications there have been many reforms initiated by the Election Commission in order to fulfil the basic principle of ‘Free and Fair Election’, which is an essence of the democracy. “Speed Money”, “Parallel Economy”, “Anti Defection Law”, “Problem of Corruption and illegal funding”; these are some of the reforms upon which the various committees of election commission have worked upon and led to some effective results. However, one such area which is yet not touched neither by the Election Commission and neither through any legislative action is “Minimum Educational Qualification by MP/MLA.
The reform of “Minimum Educational Qualification’’ required by MP/MLA”:
Many critics have argued that educational qualifications are discriminatory, and ‘abrogate their constitutional right to contest elections.’ They contend that in light of low literacy levels, such laws are especially slanted against the rural poor. According to historian Alexander Keyssar, in his book “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States” has explained that literary qualifications were consistently used to constrict the scope of the ‘right to vote’, excluding at various points, landless labourers, women’s and blacks.
The Apex court in the case of “Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms”, distinguished between “right” to vote (statutory) and the “freedom” to vote (constitutional) which means that the legislature is permitted and entitled to regulate the election process (which it does through the Representation of the People Act, and other similar statutes). However, if the state is allowed to introduce extraneous considerations such as “literacy” to justify such legislation, the most important hurdle for the state would be to establish a nexus between education and election.
In December 2014, the Government of Rajasthan passed an ordinance which described that contestant for Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti Elections should have the minimum qualification of secondary education. It further elaborates that contestant for Sarpanch, must have passed class VIII from any school in case of general category. The matter was pending before the High Court Of Rajasthan titled “Sahi Ram vs State (Panchayati Raj Dep)”. However, The Rajasthan cabinet approved two amendments bills – Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and the Rajasthan Municipalities (Amendment) Bill, 2019 – to end the minimum educational qualification condition for contesting the local body elections in the state stating that it was a hurdle in the “Right To Contest Election” for the candidate.
The State assembly of Haryana also passed a Bill, fixing the minimum educational qualification for elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Bill fixes, matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates. The decision of the Haryana State Assembly was upheld by the Apex Court in the case of “Rajbala & Ors vs State Of Haryana”. Justice Chelameswar, who authored the verdict, reasons there is nothing “irrational or illegal or unconnected” if the law prescribes minimum educational qualifications for candidates. “It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration,” Justice Chelameswar reasoned.
Recommendation and Conclusion:
At the time when India got independent, the literacy rate of the nation was merely 11%, which means that 89% of the population at the time of independence was illiterate. However after the perusal of the consensus of 2011, the literacy rate of the nation is somewhere around 74% as a result of which the election commission must recommend some basic minimum qualification which should be required to contest election. Also the legislature should bring a law where in if not all the political leaders at least the members who are being chosen as Cabinet Ministers, should have a degree according to the portfolio to which they are awarded with. This will not only help us in better implementation of policies but will also increase the development rate of the nation.