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Paperless Campus Elections Through a Legal Lens

With the recently concluded Delhi University Student`s Union Elections, campuses and colleges in and around Delhi had been defaced with the names of the candidates as well as their affiliations been scribbled on the wall, in the form of posters and invitations, thereby resorting to the traditional means of vote gathering. As one passed by the Chhatra marg, North campus, the wall of democracy was scattered with thousands of such manifestations thereby exhibiting an unclean and unhygienic environment. On various occasions students have realised the apparent consequences of this loose end and its threat to our surrounding and environment . Conscious of this facts students have also registered their protest through protests, nukkad natak or street play , awareness drives and campaigning demonstrating its ill effects.
The commitment to adopt paperless and environment friendly modes of campaigning finds its traces in the Lyngdoh committee report which was constituted by Ministry of HRD, under the chairmanship of Shri J M Lyngdoh (former chief election commissioner) in pursuance to the directive issued by the Hon`ble Supreme court of India, with a clear and definite objective to frame guidelines on student`s union elections in colleges and universities. The committee in its some of the major recommendation with the current issue recommended as follows
  • No candidate shall be permitted to make use of printed posters, printed pamphlets, or any other printed material for the purpose of canvassing. Candidates may only utilize hand-made posters for the purpose of canvassing, provided that such hand-made posters are procured within the expenditure limit set out herein above.
  • Candidates may only utilize hand-made posters at certain places in the campus, which shall be notified in advance by the election commission / university authority.
A serious violation of the above provision is seen during every elections and it is not only the university administration that is responsible for the prevention of the same but also Delhi Municipal corporation and as usual, they failed to curb this nuisance and therefore fail in its commitment to adhere to the recommendations of the committee. This practice among the students is growing popularly every year when the election season kicks off. It would be unfair to recognize the efforts of some candidates, who have adopted creative means by painting the name and post of the candidate on a dry leaf and thereby recognizing the cause and showcasing their appreciation towards the committee recommendations.
It is also pertinent to mark some observations relating to the orders directed by the National green tribunal with respect to the promotion of paperless campaign/canvassing to be done during Delhi University Student Union elections, in the case of Nithin chandran v. Union of India & anr. It was in this case that the application was filed before the court for directing the respondents to adopt and ensure paperless campaign/canvassing in the Delhi University Student`s Union election and therefore promoting environmental friendly modes of campaigning and canvassing.
The respondents realised the concern that was raised by the applicant and
1. Shall not allow use/pasting of posters/pamphlets everywhere within the campus and public streets by the students but Only allow the candidates contesting elections or their pre-notified student agents to utilize handmade posters at certain notified places not exceeding two within each campus;
2. Shall strictly enforce the Lyngdoh Commission recommendations and for that purpose frame rules or incorporate in the rules governing the students body elections stringent provisions-even to the extent of disqualifying the concerned contestants for implementation of the said Recommendations including these directions;
 3. Shall take steps to move towards paperless canvassing/campaigning in student elections in the manner aforesaid in accordance with law within two months.
It is also significant to note that in 2017, a public spirited lawyer had filed a PIL before the Delhi High court, whereby he sought a complete ban on defacement of public property by the DUSU candidates. It was submitted before the court that every year during the DUSU elections littering of papers in the nature of pamphlets, pasting of papers and spray painting is a common phenomenon and the concerned authorities fail to ensure the compliance of the Lyngdoh recommendations.   The court taking cognizance of the same issued appropriate orders to the concerned authorities (Delhi University, Delhi metro and MCD) directing them to widely publicize the anti defacement guidelines and take other appropriate measures to prevent such nuisance as necessary. The high court consequent to the PIL also warned students against the same as they might have to go to jail if they are found indulged in defacing public property.
It has been observed that resisting traditional form of campaigning such as using banners, posters, pamphlets of colour spay is very difficult, but it is the need of hour and in the best interest of the future generations that we start looking for alternatives. Various suggestions have been put forward by the stakeholders involved (students, teachers, professionals, expert committees etc.) such as permitting candidates contesting elections to make full use of waste and recycled paper, encouraging handmade posters, pamphlets and banner, dissemination of information through radio channels, emails, text messages and also fully utilizing the potential of IT through social media platform such as facebook, twitter etc.
Every year students raise their voice against such nuisance, but to their disappointment, their voice fail to make a mark as was witnessed this year too. In pursuit of clear negligence and ignorance of the court mandate, order and directions, this problem is gaining momentum every successive year. It is therefore suggested that we invite suggestions, ideas and opinion and also create a panel for discussions among the various stakeholders involved and consequently embody necessary guidelines in the form of necessary amendments to the existing statues. Therefore it is in the interest of our future generations that we shift our gears towards sustainable growth and development of our natural resources by renouncing antiquated election practices, and instead promote and adopt practices that are well suited and tuned with the modern thoughts of environmental conservation.

-by Sushant Dogra

Campus Chronicle

YUVA’s debut magazine Campus Chronicle is a first of its kind, and holds the uniqueness of being an entirely student-run monthly magazine.

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