Ruling seeks to clarify confusion surrounding Lyngdoh panel guideline that those who have been ‘tried and/or convicted’ are not eligible to contest student polls.
Chandigarh: A candidate doesn’t have to be convicted to be barred from contesting student union elections — a trial on criminal charges is enough, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has said.
The ruling was a clarification on the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee, which was formed on the Supreme Court’s instruction in 2006 to reform student polls.
The high court order is a significant boost to the decriminalisation of student politics across the country as the Supreme Court has directed the implementation of the Lyngdoh Committee’s guidelines in universities all over India.
The clarification came on a writ petition filed by a member of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the Congress student affiliate, who had been barred by Panjab University, Chandigarh, from contesting Thursday’s student elections because he is on trial for violence.
Sachin Galav, who has been charged with voluntarily causing grievous hurt, was in the running to be student council president.
Trial vs conviction
According to the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, candidates who have been “tried and/or convicted” are not eligible to contest elections. The university had sought legal opinion on Galav’s case, and arrived at the conclusion that the rule also applied to candidates on trial, not just on those who had been on trial and convicted.
Galav, a second-year master’s student at the Centre for Women Studies, challenged the university’s decision in the high court. He argued that the word “trial” in the Lyngdoh panel recommendation refers to a trial that had concluded in a conviction.
Declaring the verdict Wednesday after a three-hour hearing, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, however, upheld the university’s interpretation.
Citing a 2014 judgment issued by a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, Justice Jain held that a criminal trial commences when charges are framed against an accused.
If a trial ends in acquittal, Justice Jain added, there is no question of disqualification. However, if the trial is underway, he said, the candidate stands barred.
Thousands vote today
The Panjab University election will see the usual players, the NSUI and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) of the RSS, contesting for four seats. While the NSUI is going solo, the ABVP has the support of two other outfits, Students for PU (SFPU) and the Haryana Students Association (HAS).
Other participants include the Students’ Organisation of India (SOI), backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is contesting with the Indian National Lok Dal’s Indian National Student Organisation, the Indian Students Association, and the Himachal Students Union.
Currently, three out of the four seats of the council are held by the NSUI. Around 15,300 students are expected to cast their vote in Thursday’s election.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.