The Apex Court bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu told the petitioners to approach the Rajasthan High Court to agitate their challenge to the December 24 Ordinance, providing for educational qualifications for becoming the gram panchayat sarpanch (chief), and members of panchayat and zilla samitis.

Filing of nomination papers for the first phase of January 16 panchayat polls in Rajasthan had begun with the issuance of its notification on Saturday.

The panchayat polls in the state were at the centre of controversy after an ordinance was issued by the Vasundhara Raje government last month, fixing minimum educational qualification for contesting the rural polls.

In the entire three phase polls, 6,258 panchayat samiti members 9,872 sarpanch and 10,9469 panch will be elected by over 3.28 crore voters.

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