Come Delhi University Students’ Union elections and the entire Delhi turns into a big ugly graffiti with posters, banners and names of the student contestants spray-painted on all public properties, be it the flyovers or the Metro stations. However, this defacement may now invite disqualification of a candidate or even the cancellation of entire elections.
With the Delhi High Court taking a strict view of the nuisance as highlighted in a PIL moved by advocate Prashant Manchanda, a set of guidelines have been prepared for prevention of defacement of the city during elections to the DUSU and the college students’ union.
The guidelines were placed before the high court bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal by Joint Registrar (Rules) Reetesh Singh after examining the 'Draft Guidelines for the Code of conduct of Elections of DUSU' which had been agreed to by all parties concerned—petitioner Prashant Manchanda, University of Delhi, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Police and the elected representatives of DUSU.
The guidelines provide for a permanent regulatory mechanism with every college having a permanent committee known as College Committee for Prevention of Defacement of Property (College Committee), comprising a senior faculty member nominated by the principal of the college, a nominee of the SHO, the local police station.
There shall also be a permanent committee at the university level comprising a senior faculty member nominated by the Vice-Chancellor, a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, a nominee each of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The University of Delhi and all colleges will have to constitute these committees on the first day of the new academic session of the year and the names and contact numbers of the members of the committee shall be prominently displayed on the notice board of the university/college.
The guidelines provide for sensitization workshop for students and poll contestants before the commencement of campaigning period about the ills of defacement and the punishment it entails and should encourage them to use e-communication platforms for campaigning.
The University of Delhi/colleges will ensure that the nomination form for elections to any office of DUSU contains a clause describing the offence of defacement and a stipulation to the effect that candidates found indulging in defacement of property would be visited with the consequence of disqualification from the elections process apart from penal consequences under the applicable statutes.
Candidature of students for contesting elections to student bodies of any college will be accepted only upon the student furnishing a written undertaking on affidavit to the Returning Officer/Election Officer for the elections that they and their supporters shall not indulge in defacement of property during or after the course of the elections.
The Returning Officer/Election Officer can even cancel the entire election if the candidates are found indulging in defacement in the name of campaigning.
“Every College of the University of Delhi should arrange for and make available two "Walls of Democracy" within its premises to be used by candidates and their supporters for putting up handmade banners/slogans during the elections. One wall be dedicated for candidates for elections to DUSU and the other for the students’ union of the particular College,” state the guidelines.
It has also directed the SHO of the local police stations in every area to conduct surveys to spot any act of defacement.
It is to be noted that Manchanda had moved the high court last year after the DUSU polls left Delhi looking defaced with even the Metro stations being defaced permanently with spray paints. He objected to how no action was taken against those responsible even as Section 78 of the DMRC Act makes defacement of Metro properties punishable with 10 years’ imprisonment.
The high court also took the matter seriously and called all DUSU office bearers before it.
Considering the “magnitude” of destruction caused to the public and private properties and the importance of issues raised in the writ petition the court directed petitioner Prashant Manchanda, counsel for DMRC Pushkar Sood, DU, DUSU and all stakeholders to formulate guidelines with a view to curb the menace of defacement in future.
The high court had on February 20 asked the Joint Registrar (Rules) to examine draft guidelines prepared by the parties and to place a report in the manner it is to be issued.
On May 17, the court asked the Joint Registrar to incorporate some suggestions from all parties concerned and the same was done on May 26.