The practice of electing uneducated politicians in a democratic country like India in 21st century is a question for constitutional consideration. We always talk about rights, freedom, honor, education, equality etc., but when it comes to electing a candidate to lead our country towards the fulfillment of rights then we find our Constitution is not talking about the education qualification of our political leaders who are the decision makers of the country. If we expect our Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to promote good quality of education then we should put some right people to understand the concern simultaneously. It would be an over expectation from an uneducated Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) who has no idea about fundamental rights, legal rights, Constitutional Amendment, and many other diplomatic issues then how could he/she debate in parliament on various issues of law and society. Education for the children is good, and on the other hand Constitution of India is silent on the subject of implementing basic qualification of education. This paper would focus on how India has constitutional provisions regarding the basic eligibility of the political leaders for contesting elections in a country both at center as well as state level. Further, we study how it can be made possible to bring education criteria in our Constitution. More over the paper would also focus on role of education in explaining political behavior and that would put greater weight on the political selection mechanism.
The current election laws prevailing in India does not provide any educational criteria to become a Member Parliament (MP) or Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) in our country. The objectives of development of the country and its diplomatic relations with the other nations would always be susceptible if our elected representatives are not well educated. The time has come to discuss and ponder this vital issue with the Constitutional experts, academicians, and eminent jurists etc. An emerging and fast developing India should come up with the law for minimum education qualification before entering into the Parliament/Assembly for the better development of the country.
Key Words: Education, politician, legislator, country and development etc.
“Ignorance is the mother of all the evil and all the misery we see.
Let men have light, let them be pure and spiritually strong and educated, then alone will misery cease in the world, not before.”
In 21st century, talking about electoral changes is a need of an hour. Almost in every country several studies are carrying on in order to find out how to make election process fair and effective. India is one of them. Each ruling government, on its turn, tries to introduce certain electoral reforms in order to meet the existing demands. Recently, the issue is whether education should be a qualification for an elected parliamentarian? If yes, whether it will be a boon or otherwise?
Education and its Importance:
Importance of education, in any area, cannot be denied. Education as an instrument is the country’s most important mechanism for growth. Knowledge & education emancipates people and helps liberate people from ignorance. It is considered as a human right and a tool of social change. According to Article 26 (1), 1948 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) stipulates that “everyone has the right to education. Education must be available, at least in the basic and essential stages”. The Constitution of India embodied that the State is duty bound to provide “free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 14 and 16” in the manner established by statute by the Legislature. According to Article 45 of the Constitution, the State shall endeavor to provide all children with early childhood care and education until they are 6 years old. Article 51A(k) of the Constitution provides that every Indian citizen who is a parent or guardian has a fundamental obligation to provide his or her child with educational opportunities or, as the case may be, to live between the ages of 6 and 14. These constitutional provisions highlight the importance of education for nation building. In addition, the Right of Children to free and compulsory education (RTE) Act, 2009, which came into force on 01-04- 2010. This “Act”, in reality, sets out the duty of the state for education. The intent of the legislature is that education is the key to open visionary developmental goals. So the idea of education should not be kept for children’s only but it should be placed a mandatory for politicians who are running the country through decision making policies which is much more important for the developing country. Dr. A.K. Lakshmanan, (former Chief Justice of India), has rightly observed: “Education is perhaps the most important function of state and a local government. It is required in the performance of our most basic responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today, it is the principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful and child may reasonable be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of education.”
Why Indian Constitution does not Specify any Minimum Educational Qualification?
Unfortunately, with regard to the qualification for membership of Parliament and State Legislatures the only eligibility criteria is of an age. The Constitution provides that a person should be a citizen of India for membership of Parliament; while as, in the Council of States, not less than 30 years of age and in the House of the People, not less than 25 years of age. Similar eligibility are there with some age difference for membership of the State Legislature. Thus the rationale of the founding fathers for this move is the immense trust they had on the people in choosing suitable representatives and the capability of Indians to hold any difficult position. Even the People’s Representation Act, 1951 is silent on this issue.
Constitution: A Living Document:
In framing the Constitution of India, the intent of the framers was not to keep it in an absolute rigidity. The Constitution is working for the last 72 years and it has been able to be governed by the same Constitution with different amendments from time to time. After studying the constitutional changes, we can easily say that the Constitution of India can be amended with the changing needs of the time without touching its basic structure. The Apex Court has played a significant role in the protection of the Constitution, as well as in the constitutional interpretation, it is evolving with the passage of time.
The adding or altering constitutional provisions does not mean it goes against the democratic ethos of the country unless it is not destroying the basic principles of the Constitution. It is not intermittent for countries to change their Constitution in response to changing conditions or shifting ideas within society, or even because of a party-political hysteria. Firstly, law is a dynamic, it cannot remain static; it accepts the necessary modifications as per requirements of the society. Secondly, there was ample flexibility of interpretation in the actual workings of the Constitution. The implementation of the Constitution has shown maturity and flexibility. These factors have made our Constitution not a closed and static rulebook, but a living text.
The Constitution of India cannot work under mathematical formula which runs since antiquity. It is an important document that provides the government’s framework for the future. It is also vital that the Constitution must be able to respond to future challenges of society. A Constitution is not a frozen and unalterable document; it is a document prepared by human beings and may need revisions, after its proper re-analysis. The makers of Constitution were well aware in advance of this issue and they tried to strike a balance. At the same time, they agreed that in the future, as needed, this document will require modifications if requires but without destroying its basic structure. The Constitution is not a sacred document which cannot be changed without touching the basic structure as evolved in Keshavananda Bharati case. But we must also keep in mind that it should be protected from unnecessary and frequent changes.
When Constitution was framed; the makers of it made it flexible for future amendments in case of existing laws proved to be invalid. They knew the Constitution could not be completely fault-free. They were also of the view that the Constitution to be quickly revised and to be able to get rid of apparent errors whenever such inaccuracies would come to light.
Minimum Educational Qualification for Elected Representatives- A Major Electoral Reform
It is mostly argued that educational qualification would be discriminatory as it would deprive citizens of India the right to represent their people. Time has not yet come to provide educational qualification for Politicians. Moreover, institutional qualification is different from political acumen and wisdom. For politics, wisdom is required and requisite of educational qualification would hinder able person though illiterate from being politician even if he has leadership qualities. Further, it has been a practice of political parties to choose that candidate who has winning ability which is the outcome of a political vision, decision-making ability and empathy for the people. However, the most important fact is that the Constitution of India does not specify any minimum educational qualification because the Constitutional framers knew about literacy rate of India and at that time it was about 12 percent only. Even the Representation of Peoples Act, 1961 do not provide for it. In India it is the political knowledge and efficiency which is the main criteria of electing representatives. Academic knowledge has nothing to do with it.
But it has to be understood that in recent times especially post liberalization, governance has become complex. It requires proficiency and specialization for better governance, especially, in a developing country like India. In this regard, the question of minimum educational qualification for certain ministries is a debatable question. Educational qualification hence would make ministers more adept at dealing with intricacies of governance. The education qualification of ministers could motivate people to pursue higher studies especially for those who want to see their future in politics.
It does not mean that it goes against the spirit of our founding fathers of keeping the doors of governance open to every citizen of India. It is not against the spirit of democracy if the Government of India comes with basic education qualification for all. Education is the most vital part of any expanding nation in all aspects, whether it be human or mechanical growth. Although education comes after hunger, we now know that after 76 years of independence, education is also considered one of the major problems in India. As a result, our legislators must now be qualified and well-educated.
The majority of people in India lack access to essential services. On paper, they may have the resources. In such a situation, who should be made responsible? Is it fair to blame policymakers for not thinking sufficiently about the people who can elect them to power? Is it fair to blame middlemen for robbing the common people – particularly the poor. Well, the problem is always at the root, and in this situation, the leaders must shoulder a big amount of the blame. The major issues afflicting India’s political system is the overall lack of knowledge among most politicians. While it is true that formal education does not always ensure a decent and just disposition, its importance – particularly in a society like India – should not be overlooked. To begin, consider how a lack of education might be detrimental to an individual. Education allows people to perceive things from a new perspective. Given India’s abundant natural resources, proper policies are one method for the country to attain the progress it deserves. It is imperative that the representatives must be well aware and familiar with economics, global politics and other policy making issues. At the very least, with an educated person, there is a chance that exposure to the world through education positive thinking and proper problem identification and resolution. Education should be made compulsory for Indian politicians, since we need skills to do whatever we undertake. Let us consider of education as a means of developing our greatest potential, because in every one of us there is a public goal and dream that, if realized, may convert into advantages for everyone and increased national strength.
The spirit of the Constitution suggests that compulsory educational qualification should not be imposed but at the same time, our Constitution is not so rigid and static in its nature that new laws cannot be introduced. Nothing can beat education as an important requisite for Indian politicians. It helps in personality development. It enables a politician to keep pace with the world. High education is not required but at least basic education should be the requirement. Education provides a platform for a leadership. It will not be a hurdle in any sense. In contemporary world, it is incumbent that the representatives and politicians should be well educated. it will help them in governing and developmental process of the country and also to make an insight understanding of the complexity of the system. Education is a basic theme for understanding technical skills, knowledge of specialized fields that ultimately make them more effective in their roles as statesman.
It is high time that our parliament should much vibrant. The parliamentarians of the country should necessarily be educated in first place. The legislators who are framing educational policies of the country should also ponder its importance because to some extent designing the educational systems that they are stewards for but politicians might find themselves surprised by some of the possibilities available for education that they may never have considered. It is the right time to rethink again and to apply the same standards for the eligibility criteria in contesting elections. No one would allow a teacher without holding a degree or expertise to step into a classroom or not stay up to date in their field. It is a matter of concern that why it is ok for politicians to be less educated or accountable.
There can be still debates on education criteria for politicians who are contesting elections. They must recognize that there are always conflicts and disagreements in politics in a democracy. The diversity, tolerance and liveliness are much visible in the Constitution of India. Democracy encourages debates. At the same time, in setting limits to these debates, our political parties and leadership should have to show maturity. It is possible only when our politicians understand the importance of education.
We can assume that uneducated politicians may not have intent to ruin the country’s developmental progress. No doubt, there are certainly some legislators who have lifetime experience, who did not even attend school; they did an outstanding job in most aspects of their political lives but it will remain an exception; not a general rule in a developing country. There must be inherent value in education that helps human beings to understand the system and make better informed decisions about what policies will benefit it. Here we can take an example of Article 246 of the Constitution which talks about the distribution of power between the Union and the state. The powers fall under three categories i.e., “the state list, the Union list and the Concurrent list”. The foreign affairs are a Union subject and the states have no role in formulating the Foreign Policy. The Ministry is responsible for managing the relationship between India and other foreign countries. Education is a key role for the representatives because the government through its foreign ministry is accountable for representing the country in the United Nations (UN). We can imagine how this portfolio is very vital for the countries diplomatic relations with the rest of the country and it certainly needs educated person who can make treaties and negotiate the terms. So, we can draw a simple conclusion here that education is a mandatory provision for politicians.
Surprisingly, the attitude of the Apex Court is worth noting. According to it, education is an important tool for good administration. The Honourable Apex Court of India, by its order in Union of India v. Association for Democratic reforms and another, has directed the Election Commission as follows: –
“The Election Commission is directed to call for information on affidavit by issuing necessary order in exercise of its power under Article 324 of the Constitution of India from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or a state legislature as a necessary part of his nomination paper, furnishing therein, information on the following aspects in relation to his/her candidature: –
- Whether the candidate is convicted/acquitted/discharged of any criminal offence in the past-if any, whether he is punished with imprisonment or fine?
- Prior to six months of filing of nomination, whether the candidate is accused in any pending case, of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge is framed or cognizance is taken by the court of law. If so, the details thereof.
- The assets (immovable, movable, bank balances etc.,) of a candidate and of his/her spouse and that of dependants.
- Liabilities, if any, particularly whether there are any over dues of any public financial institution or government dues.
- The educational qualifications of the candidate.”
In its order, the Hon’ble Supreme Court also observed that the “Election Commission” has issued instructions several times to comply with the circumstances in which the field is not occupied by the legislature. It has further directed that the rules and procedures for adopting and enforcing the above-mentioned directions should be drafted by the “Election Commission” as quickly as possible and in any event within 2 months.
The Apex Court in Rajbala and Ors v. State of Haryana upheld that “Haryana State law” specifying that only those with “minimum” educational qualifications are eligible to compete in state panchayat elections.
According to this law, “the minimum education required to qualify for a panchayat election shall be completed in case of candidates belonging from general & completion of 8th class for woman candidate or a candidate from Scheduled Caste; and completion of 5th Class for a Scheduled Caste woman candidate contesting for a Panch”.
The Bench headed by Justice Chelameswar J. and Abhay Manohar Sapre J. unanimously agreed that the “two classes of voters,” that is, “those who are qualified by virtue of their educational accomplishment to contest the elections to the panchayats and those who are not.”
Justice Chelameswar reasoned.
“There is nothing irrational or illegal or unconnected, if the law prescribes minimum educational qualification for candidates. Simply put, the court feels that basic education would “enable the candidates to effectively discharge duties of the panchayat. 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.”
Conclusion and Suggestions:
Education is the foundation for each nation’s development and empowerment. The utmost powerful ornament that can be utilized for progressive society to make change in the world is education. In addition, education has its usability in almost all spheres of life. Its significance can never be ignored. According to ancient thinkers in India, “Vidya or wisdom or learning or education is man’s ‘ third eye ‘ which gives him insight into all subjects and teaches him how to act; it leads us to our salvation; it leads us to all round success and prosperity in the worldly sphere.”
In the field of politics, education has now become the most critical need. We should be educated as a priority in view of the present condition of Indian leaders, as they do not even know much about Indian culture, politics, and even Indian geography. They are very confined to their constituencies or regions.
It is important to have the right educational background and credentials, since education serves as a foundation for policy implementation. The ideas can only be conceived of when people are aware of the problems. So, potential candidates should at least have a degree in fields that are relevant in the political arena.
If in politics, minimum educational qualification is made as one of the qualifications like in other areas, it will enhance its quality. There are instances of well-educated politicians who by virtue of their educational excellence uplift India to a new height. Dr. Manmohan Singh has one of the strongest of CV’s of a politician in India. He is Doctorate in Economics, Oxford University. He applied doctrine of privatisation in India. Kapil Sibal came up with the ‘zero loss theory’ as his stint as telecom minister. He is a lawyer and has Masters of Law degree from Havard Law School, Cambridge University, U.S.A. Arvind Kejriwal is another example who is an alumnus of IIT- Kharagpur as a mechanical engineer. He introduced several reforms in Delhi as its Chief Minister.
The two states i.e., Haryana and Rajasthan (along with others) had altered election laws on local bodies in a way that was exceptional in India and in a case its validity has been upheld show that now there is awareness regarding importance of education in Indian Politics. The moot point arises here, if “minimum qualifications are required at the local level, why are similar eligibility criteria not required for MLAs and MPs who have more complex responsibilities”? There is a need of necessary amendments in the Constitution and in People’s Representation Act, 1951.
Therefore, before allowing potential candidates to participate in elections, we should ensure that they have relevant degrees such as law, economics, or political science, are able to bring positive change to the country, and most importantly, dedicated and determined to take the country to higher heights.
Many leadership qualities may be learned through education; hence legislators should have a high level of education. Leaders that lack knowledge are unable to cope with change, which impedes the development of their countries. For a nation’s economic bright future and prosperity, a leader must have a good education. It is now a person’s basic need, but it should not be limited to a specific degree.
Keeping in view the strong need of minimum education as one of the qualifications for Indian politicians, the following suggestions are put forward-
- The Representation of People’s Act must be changed to make minimum education mandatory for lawmakers.
- The decision of the Apex Court in Rajbala and Ors v. State of Haryana is one of the positive reformations which needs to be legally recognized.
- It is a duty of a responsible voter to be vigilant enough while casting vote that an educated politician should lead the country.
- A government consists of three organs i.e. Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. Legislative body of the Parliament and the State Assemblies, where the representatives of the country are interconnected to each other. Their systematic policy decisions can be enforced when there is no gap of communication and education is the best means which can fill this gap.
- Proper training should be given to the politicians in few basic philosophies on which administration and the current policies can be well framed.
- No doubt that there are some uneducated good politicians but we should not put them into general rule rather we should see them as an exception in a country.
- Education should be an important aspect in politics, we should urge the literates to be our politicians.
This manuscript is a part of the conference organised by Scool of Law, Lovely Professional University and the Author is Showkat Ahmad Wani, Assistant Professor, School of Law, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Bengaluru.
 Ajay Goswami v. Union of India & Others, AIR 2007 SC 493.
Art. 84, the Constitution of India.
 Ibid at Article 173.
 Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461.
Ministry of information and broadcasting, Government of India, Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches (Vol. 2) 1949-53, available at https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.460612/2015.460612.Jawaharlal-Nehrus-Speeches-Vol-2_djvu.txt (23/05/22)
Palicherlu V. Prakash, Minimum educational qualification a must to contest elections, the Times of India (31/03/2019), available at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/thinkink/minimum-educational-qualification-a-must-to-contest-elections-2795/ , last seen on 01/06/22
(2002) 5 SCC 294.
(2016) 2 SCC 445.
 Krishnadas Rajagopal, Supreme Court upholds Haryana panchayat law, The Hindu (04/12/21), available at
www.thehindu.com/news/national/haryana-law-on-minimum-qualification-for-panchayat-polls-valid-says-supreme-court/article7969669.ece , last seen on 18/05/2022.
 Suresh Sharma, Education in Emerging India 55 (Neha Publishers & Distributors 2nd ed., 2008).
Shikhar Jiwrajka, Educational qualification: 11 well-educated leaders and their deeds, India.com (29/05/2014), available at www.india.com/buzz/educational-qualification-11-well-educated-leaders-and-their-deeds-66782/, last seen on 24/05/22).
See Christophe Jaffrelot, Laws prescribing educational qualifications for contesting elections are undemocratic, The Indian Express(10/05/2016), available at www.indianexpress.com>Opinion>Columns, last seen on 07/06/2022).