12 Feb 2024 1:20 PM GMT
In a plea against limitation of the number of times a candidate can contest Students Union elections for office bearer and executive posts, the Supreme Court today issued notice.The Bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan was hearing a PIL filed under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking the quashing of Rule 6.5.6 of the Lyngdoh Committee Report and a notification dated November...
In a plea against limitation of the number of times a candidate can contest Students Union elections for office bearer and executive posts, the Supreme Court today issued notice.
The Bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan was hearing a PIL filed under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking the quashing of Rule 6.5.6 of the Lyngdoh Committee Report and a notification dated November 28, 2006 issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Rule 6.5.6 of the said Report provides that a candidate appearing in students union elections shall have 1 opportunity to contest for the post of office bearer, and 2 opportunities to contest for the post of an executive member.
The Lyngdoh Committee was appointed by the top Court in 2005 to recommend measures for the regulation of student body elections in India. When the Committee, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner JS Lyngdoh, gave a Report, it was directed by the Court that the Report be implemented as an interim measure. Subsequently, the UGC brought out the impugned notification, asking all universities/colleges to comply with the Court's order, thereby giving effect to the Lyngdoh Committee Report.
The petitioners challenge Rule 6.5.6 as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, claiming it fails to satisfy the twin test. It is averred that there is no justifiable reason for candidates in students union elections to be treated differently from those participating in other elections (such as Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State legislative assemblies, etc.). Calling the Rule unfair, the petitioners point out that the disqualification imposed under it restricts participation of an otherwise eligible candidate to one occasion, regardless of whether he lost or won.
The impugned Rule is also assailed under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution (right to form associations or unions), on the ground that no reasonable restrictions exist to justify barring of a candidate from re-contesting students union elections for executive and office bearer posts.
The petitioners allege that the Report, even though laudable on most aspects, gives no justification for rolling out the impugned Rule. They also urge that the impugned Rule has the effect of restricting democracy at the most basic level - Universities.
Significantly, the question whether fundamental rights are violated by direction for implementation of Lyngdoh Committee Report was framed by a 2-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in 2009 for consideration by a Constitution Bench. However, in 2016, the issue was placed before a 3-Judge Bench of the Court, when in facts and circumstances of the case, it was seemingly left to be examined in an appropriate case in future and the matter closed.
In this backdrop, the petitioners (a social activist and students/student leaders of colleges across India) approached the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality and legality of Rule 6.5.6 as well as the UGC notification in regard thereto.
Today, Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for petitioners and contended that with respect to the impugned Rule, there was no discussion or debate amongst stakeholders. He pressed that the said Rule was unreasonable and arbitrary, yet it was being implemented by the UGC.
The Bench opined that the justification for the Rule appeared to be the prevention of proximity with certain political parties. It even pondered if the matter should be listed before a 3-Judge Bench, before issuing notice to the respondent-authorities.
Case Title: NAVEEN PRAKASH NAUTIYAL AND ORS. v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS., W.P.(C) No. 1079/2023