Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday issued notice of motion to the state of Haryana over a petition challenging Haryana Panchayati Raj (second amendment) Act, 2020 wherein the women candidates are restricted from contesting elections from wards that are not reserved for women.
The division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli has sought the response by April 20, 2021.
The petitioners, Kailash Bai and Sneh Lata, had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court through advocate Deep Karan Dalal. The petition has sought quashing of Section 9, 59, and 120 of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (second amendment) Act, 2020 which signifies the 50% reservation for women candidates in elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions after certain amendments in Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994.
The petitioners contended that the Act was patently illegal, discriminatory and unconstitutional, being violative of Article 14, Article 15, and Article 243-D of the Constitution.
As per the second amendment in Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, the wards of Gram Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads are to be sequentially numbered and the even numbered wards are to be reserved for women candidates and the wards that are odd numbered are reserved for persons other than woman.
“Consequently there are no general or open category seats. As a result of the impugned amendment, women electors who are otherwise eligible to contest elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions have been restricted to contest only from the wards which are specially reserved for women. Consequently, woman candidates such as the petitioners who wish to contest elections to these institutions shall not be able to file their nomination papers from odd numbered wards which should have been general wards that are open for all,” argued advocate Dalal.
He further pointed out, “The object of giving reservation to women was to empower them and increasing their political participation at the grass-root level. This expectation would be better met if they are allowed to contest from odd numbered wards also. In the present scenario, their representation would be limited to the reserved seats only, which would not serve the purpose effectively.”
The plea contended that the amendment creates reservation for other than women in open wards which is impermissible under the Indian Constitution. Petitioners also raised the issue that it creates gender bias and therefore violates Article 15 of the Constitution.