Provision that bars deaf-muts from contesting poll challenged

A provision of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act the excludes the deaf-mute from contesting elections has been challenged before the Masras High Court. The petitioner L.K. Venkat, a physically challenged person and a law graduate, stated that in proviso 37(3) of the legislation, a person would be disqualified if, on the last date of filing of nomination or on the date of election, he was  of unsound mind or deaf-mute. He made a representation to the State Election Commissioner on October 4, regarding the exclusion. He was told that a candidate’s nomination was rejected for the reason that she was a deaf-mute. The petitioner said it was the govt’s duty to give protection and encourage such persons by giving enough opportunity to them as part of confidence-building measures. These people did not need any sympathy, but only wanted recognition by way of equal opportunity. The legal provision was ultra vires the constitution, especially against Article 14 by denying equal opportunity. It was an irony that persons with criminal background could contest elections, but those with physically disability at birth could not.

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