University of Kerala
Vs. Council, Principals', Colleges, Kerala & Ors.
Jurisdiction I.A. Nos. 22, 23 & 24 in Civil Appeal No (S). 887 of 2009]
Heard Mr. Gopal Subramanium,
learned amicus curiae, Mr. Sanjay Parikh, learned counsel appearing for the Jawaharlal
Nehru University Students' Union, Mr. A.C. Dhanda, learned counsel for Jawaharlal
Nehru University (JNU) authorities and also Mr. M.L. Lahoty, learned counsel appearing
for the Youth for Equality Students. The instant matter comes up before us by way
of Interlocutory Applications No. 22-23 and 24 filed by the JNU Students' Union
and the learned Amicus Curiae respectively.
It appears that by way
of judicial intervention, this Court wanted to introduce fairness and transparency
in the holding of elections to the Students' Unions in various Universities across
the country. The main thrust behind such intervention is because of the fact
that the general election scenario in this country is murky and suffering from
mob-muscle methods which have deleterious effects on various elections
including conduct of free and fair elections to the students' unions.
students' bodies has been badly affected throughout the country. It goes without
saying that the students are the future representatives in various democratic
bodies like State Legislative Assemblies as well as Parliament in our democratic
set up. This Court, therefore, thought that a value based mechanism should be
inculcated at a very early stage in the elections of students' bodies so that
the same ultimately transforms and improves the quality of general elections to
strengthen the democratic governance of the country.
This Court, therefore,
on the basis of important public law principles, intervened in the judgment rendered
by Kerala High Court where the main controversy in a students' body election was
whether the form of elections should be Parliamentary or Presidential. By an
order dated 12th December, 2005, a Division Bench of this Court took note of certain
valid suggestions given by Mr. Gopal Subramanium, the then Additional Solicitor
General (presently appearing as amicus curiae before us) in order to ensure free
and fair elections to the students' bodies across the country.
The learned amicus suggested
that there are three areas of serious concern which need immediate attention of
this Court. They are:(a) Criminalization in Students' Union elections.(b) Financial
transparency and limits of expenditure.(c) Criterion for being eligible to
This Court, after hearing
Mr. Gopal Subramanium, the then Additional Solicitor General and the counsel for
Principals of the Colleges and the students' bodies, found that the suggestions
given by learned amicus are prima facie worth considering and therefore, appointed
a Committee consisting of the following persons:1. Mr. J.S. Lyngdoh, Retd.
Chief Election Commissioner
2. Dr. Zoya Hasan
3. Professor Pratap
4. Dr. Dayanand
Dongaonkar (Secretary General of the Association of Indian Universities) The said
order dated 12th December, 2005 also directs nomination of two other members by
the Ministry of Human Resources and Development and one of the members should
preferably be a Chartered Accountant to consider the financial angles of such
Pursuant to the
aforesaid order of this Court, a Committee was constituted by the Central
Government and the said Committee ultimately consisted of the following
persons: Shri J.M. Lyngdoh Chairman Chairman Former Chief Election Commissioner
Prof. Zoya Hasan Member Member Professor Centre for Political Studies Dr.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta Member Member President & Chief Executive Centre for
Policy Research New Delhi Prof. Ved Prakash Member Member Director National
Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) New Delhi Shri
I.P. Singh Member Member Retired Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General Prof.
Dayanand Dongaonkar Convener Convener Secretary General Association of Indian
Universities New Delhi The aforesaid Committee upon a very seirous exercise
gave detailed recommendations.
This Court vide its order
dated 22nd September, 2006 accepted those recommendations and directed that
those recommendations should thereafter be followed scrupulously in holding elections
to the students' bodies in all Universities across the country. We are happy to
note that after those recommendations are given, the standard of fairness in the
matter of holding elections to students' bodies across the country has
Afterwards, notice of
this Court was drawn to certain complaints to the effect that elections were taking
place not in accordance with those recommendations. This Court vide an order dated
24th October, 2008, issued notice of contempt to the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar
of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and also stayed the JNU elections which were
scheduled to be held on 3rd November, 2008 as they are not being held in
accordance with the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations which were accepted by
Pursuant to such notice
of contempt, the University authorities appeared before this Court and made it
clear that the elections in JNU are held under the Jawaharlal Nehru University Act
and the student bodies are holding such elections as autonomous bodies and the JNU
authorities do not have much control in those matters.
Since the elections
to the student bodies of JNU were stayed pursuant to the aforesaid order of this
Court dated 24th October, 2008, interlocutory applications were filed by the student
bodies seeking leave of this Court for the holding of elections in accordance with
the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations and if necessary by seeking certain suitable
modifications to the existing norms so that elections are held in a manner which
is substantially in tune with the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee.
It may also be
noticed that prayers were also made for vacation of the order of the stay issued
by this Court on 24th October, 2008. We have heard learned counsel for the
parties and the amicus in connection with the aforesaid prayers and after
hearing parties, we pass the following order. This Court is confronted with two
competing claims of public interest:
On the one hand, the
Court has to ensure purity in the election process and on the other hand, is the
right to exercise the vitally important liberty of the students to choose their
representative through election. This Court has held that this right to choose one's
representative through an election is virtually an extension of one's fundamental
right to freedom of expression (See Union of India Vs. Association of Democratic
Reforms & Anr. (2002) 5 SCC 294).
Thus, it partakes of the
character of a fundamental right. We thought that such a right cannot be possibly
stifled by a Court order. Thus, we are trying to strike a balance and in doing so;
we have followed the concept of reasonable restrictions, which is a part of our
Constitutional doctrine. We have been told by the learned counsel appearing for
the University that JNU is primarily a research 7oriented University. There are
some students in the language courses but JNU is basically a post-graduate University.
JNU being primarily a
research oriented university, it has certain unique and distinct features of
its own. We have heard learned Amicus Curiae on the areas of relaxation which
have been sought by the students' union and also considered the suggestions given
by learned amicus. One of the issues is for the time period of holding of
After considering the
suggestions given by the learned amicus and learned counsel for the parties, we
do not think that any variation in Lyngdoh Committee recommendation in that
aspect is called for. The next suggestion is coming up on the question of age
restriction of candidates. After considering the suggestions given by learned amicus
and also after hearing learned counsel appearing for the students' bodies, we accept
the suggestion given by learned amicus that for research students, the maximum age
limit which can be fixed for them to legitimately contest the election could be
enhanced to 30 years.
Insofar as attendance
criteria is concerned, we have been told by the learned counsel appearing for
the University authorities that in JNU, for research students no attendance is taken.
Therefore, the 8stipulation given in the Lyngdoh Committee recommendation about
75% attendance is not applicable insofar as election by research students of JNU
is concerned. So far as the repeat criteria is concerned, we do not think that any
change is required.
We reiterate that the
elections should be held in accordance with the Lyngdoh Committee
recommendations. Similarly, in cases of criminal record of candidates, the recommendation
of Lyngdoh Committee should be followed. Insofar as the use of printed material
and pamphlets is concerned, we accept the suggestions given by the learned amicus
that photostat copies of pamphlets and manifestos may be permitted within the limit
of Rs. 5000/- as recommended by the Lyngdoh Committee.
Insofar as grievance mechanism
is concerned, we think no change is called for. Since we are of the view that
the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee are very salutary in nature, we have
not allowed any major changes except those which are absolutely necessary. We
hope that elections may be satisfactorily held in view of the relaxations
permitted by this order.
With the above directions,
the interlocutory applications stand disposed of. Before parting with the
matter, this Court records its profound appreciation for the very competent assistance
rendered by the learned amicus in resolving these issues, which are of vital
(ASOK KUMAR GANGULY)
(JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR)