May 06, 2016

Announcement: Symposium on Anti-Dalit Panchayat Amendments in Haryana & Rajasthan (7 May 2016, New Delhi)

Rajasthan and Haryana Governments have amended their state Panchayat Acts to mandate 8th and 10th pass education to contest Panchayat Polls, which have permanently disqualified ~75% of the rural electorate above the age of 20 years from contesting, majority Dalits/Adivasis and Women. 

The amendments have been justified on grounds of corruption and governance in local bodies; however they hold serious implications on the construct of citizenship and political representation of the poor and marginalised. In light of this, the Rajya Sabha recently passed a historic amendment to the President's address after a pitched debate on the right of citizens to contest elections at all levels without limitations. The Prime Minister too weighed in on the debate. 
​The National Commission for Schedules Castes too has issued notices to both Governments ​on the issue in April 2016.

This is to invite you to a Symposium to discuss the wider implications of these amendments on the Indian democracy. The relevance of these amendments go far beyond local body polls in these two states alone. The logic of making candidature for elections contingent on criteria other than citizenship alone is being extended to other states and at other levels. A lacunae in the Constitution as interpreted in successive judgments by the Supreme Court has held that the right to contest elections – despite its centrality to the democratic paradigm of governance in our country – is but a statutory right which can be restricted by state legislatures or Parliament as the case may be. There is no bar on the Parliament applying similar restrictions on elections to state legislatures or Parliament through mere amendments to the Representation of the People Act.

The Symposium - jointly organized by National Law University, Delhi and Dialogue for Democracy - will be held on May 7 at the Speaker Hall, Constitution Club from 10:00 am - 4:30 PM. The Symposium will feature panel discussions by activists, senior jurists, and the original petitioners who challenged the amendments in the Supreme Courts. We hope that you will join us to discuss one of the most pressing constitutional issues of our times.
​Please circulate to others who may be interested.