Supreme Court and JNU student elections

                                                                                                            The Supreme Court has thrown spanners at the only gala annual event of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University – student union elections. The stay order issued yesterday instantly outrages all those who have been part of the radical university. Cutting across ideological lines members of the university community feel deprived of an intellectual entertainment during the union elections. Debates, dharnas, campaigns, posters, pamphlets, public meetings and many more unique events are part of the election process. It is the only university where elections are conducted by students. For the past thirty and above years this process has been a quite smooth affair bearing few odd incidents.


J.M. Lyndgoh Committee appointed by the Supreme Court in its report last year proposed few sweeping changes in the conduct of student union elections all over the country. Violence, uncontrolled flow of money, muscle power, political influence and loss of academic character of the institutions during student union elections have influenced the committee to propose stringent measures. Restricting the age limit to 28, amount spent per candidate to Rs.5000, first class pass in all subjects with 80 percent attendance and no second term contest are some of the recommendations of the committee as criteria for students to contest their union elections.


All other universities in the country have either following these guidelines or not conducting student union elections. JNU which is known for questioning the questioner was trying to convince the Court about its unique nature of the elections. The university does not have attendance system. Students are encouraged to do self study and attending lectures are made optional. It is a successful experiment where self struggle breeds all round development. Students from extremely backward families without any basic advantage used the university and reached top positions in life later. Those who have observed such a successful social transformations engineered by JNU supports the university’s unique culture, tradition and ethos. But law and rule of the country cannot be JNU specific.


Knowing well the impact of the Lyndgoh committee report, enlightened student union members of JNU were lackadaisical when the report was accepted and put for implementation by the Supreme Court. I find this as the biggest mistake of JNU student union. Last year when the Supreme Court threatened to stay elections, JNUSU pleaded for course correction this year due to lack of time. After a year the circle is repeated. In the absence of strong record, Supreme Court will not vacate the stay. At best there can be few agreements to the Court order and few amendments can be made to the Lyndgoh’s committee report. There should be segregation between college and university union elections. The age limit can hiked to 35 instead of 28. Two terms can be allowed per candidate due to his/her long term stay in the campus (9 years). Without a give and take policy the stalemate will continue.


Controlling violence, protecting the campus from defacements, excess usage of money and restricting outsiders influence during student union elections are to be taken care by the student leaders. They need to be trained to follow rules and regulations. If students fail to follow law of the land there is no future for legal mechanisms. Instead of stopping the whole process, educating and improving responsibilities of students need to be carried out. Knowing the pros and cons of student life, Supreme Court’s magnanimity in handling student union elections will be highly productive. Not too much. Not too far can be the role play of the legal authority in campus matters.

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