As Delhi University polls for its Students’ Union on Wednesday, the Delhi High Court has asked the police to take stringent action within a week on a status report which says that the defacement of public property in the run-up to the DUSU polls have been a little less this year but the candidates have resorted to illegal hoardings in defiance of court’s order and pamphlets can be seen strewn all over the place.
Advocate Prashant Manchanda, who had earlier moved court against defacement of public property in Delhi in the name of DUSU poll campaigning, filed a status report before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Rao.
Manchanda told the court that in compliance with its July 16 order, he carried out an extensive inspection all over Delhi and found that as compared to the earlier elections, this year Delhi Metro sites predominantly remained free from defacement by use of spray paints and inks, etc.
“North Campus area also remained free from extensive defacement with almost negligible use of spray paints and inks. Further, walls were predominantly free from pasting of fresh posters of the DUSU candidates except a few candidates pasting posters at the post-nomination stage. However, it has been observed that now students have resorted to alternative means of defacement through the placement of illegal hoardings and banners,” he said, while also presenting photographs to support his findings.
It is to be noted here that the high court had earlier expressly stated that, “We make it clear that defacement of public property does not mean only painting or writing over public property but it also includes pasting of posters and placement of hoardings on the public property.”
Manchanda also named the candidates of various parties who have indulged in defacing public property this year and the names include Sunny Chillar of NSUI, Jagat Singh of ABVP and four others.
After taking the status report, the court on Wednesday passed the following directions:
(a) The status report presented by the petitioner clearly depicts that despite the formulation of guidelines, there has been a clear violation of the repeated directions issued by this court.
(b) The Delhi Govt and Delhi Police are directed to immediately take stringent steps within one week on the status report filed by the petitioner with a view to book the student political candidates involved in the defacement of public properties despite repeated orders of this court.
(c) All the authorities /civil bodies concerned are also directed to file a detailed status report with regards to the areas covered by the petitioner and the status report filed by him.
During the hearing, Justice Rao made a mention of defacement he came across in the NDMC area and asked the NDMC to provide specific data on defacement carried out in its jurisdiction.
The court also directed that all its earlier orders in the matter be strictly complied with.
It is to be noted that on May 29, the court had accepted the ‘Guidelines for the Code of conduct of Elections of DUSU' presented before it by the Joint Registrar (Rules) which provided that 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.
The guidelines also 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 local police station.
The guidelines were put in place after Manchanda told the court how all flyovers, Metro stations, walls etc., were defaced in the name of campaigning for DUSU elections. He also relied heavily on the Metro Railways Act which provides for a maximum punishment of 10-year imprisonment for defacement.