Removal of the Ban on JNU Student Elections

The Supreme Court on the 9th of December lifted the Ban on JNU student elections. The Supreme Court had stayed student elections in JNU in 2007 stating that the elections did not conform to the norms laid down in the Lyngdoh committee report. The Lyngdoh Committee report, imposed by the Supreme Court as an interim measure in September 2006, fixed the upper age limit for undergraduate candidates between 17 and 22 years and for post-graduate and research students, the limit was 24-25 and 28 years, amongst other regulations.

The Supreme Court had appointed the board, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, to suggest means to reform student union elections throughout the country and free them from the influence of capital and muscle power.

Sanjay Parikh, counsel for the petitioners in the present case, argued that such regulations are merely recommendatory in nature and it is not the responsibility of the judiciary to enforce the same. The stay imposed by the Supreme Court amounted to judicial overreach, and the enforcement of the report could only be done by the legislature.

Gopal Subramanium, the Amicus Curae in the case had in September 2009 suggested that the Court relax some of the Lyngdoh Committee’s guidelines that were dissented from by student leaders. One of the suggestions was to reduce the upper age limit of a candidate and the number of times a student could contest the elections. With a view on the demographics of the University, the JNU Student Union had demanded the upper age limit be increased to 32 years for research candidates, though Mr. Subramaniam recommended it be increased to 30 years.

The bench headed by Justice AK Ganguly increased the age limit for candidates from 28 to 30 years and further, waved the mandatory 75% attendance standard.

The Court, however, agreed with the committee’s recommendations for not using more than 5,000 pamphlets and the said regulation was upheld. The question of the number of times a student could contest elections was not dealt with. The Court upheld the Lyngdoh Committee recommendation that students standing for elections should not have held any post as an office-bearer in the last union.

The  court maintained that no student who faces a criminal chargesheet may be eligible contest, and also barred outside leaders from canvassing. A grievance redressal committee is to be set up with representatives from the administration, teachers’ organisations, and students.

Student bodies such as the AISA, SFI, AISF, ABVP and NSUI held a meeting on the passing of the Court’s decision, and decided that elections should be held in keeping with the court directions.