Apex court rules only tribals can head panchayats in tribal areas
The Supreme Court cleared the way for panchayat elections in Jharkhand. On January 12, it upheld the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, or pesa, that reserves 100 per cent panchayat chairpersons’ posts in tribal areas for scheduled tribes.
The apex court reversed a 2005 Jharkhand high court order that struck down sections of the pesa Act and Jharkhand Panchayati Raj Act of 2001 that allows reservation for tribal candidates in tribal areas. The high court order was based on writ petitions that contended every individual should have a right to contest elections; the pesa Act curtails the rights of general candidates. The apex court said the high court erred in striking down provisions. Exclusive representation of scheduled tribes for chairperson positions is constitutionally permissible, it ruled.
“The apex court has upheld the law drafted for the security and progress of tribals. It is now for the state government to ensure their progress,” said Bandi Oraon, a Congress party member who helped draft the pesa Act.