People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 12

March 19, 2006

AIFUCTO Decries Attempt To Depoliticise Student Union Elections



DEPOSING on March 15, before the Lyngdoh Committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India to make recommendations on the proper conduct of College and University Union elections, All India Federation of Universities and College Teachers' Organisations decried the attempt to depoliticise the campus as an attempt to de-democratize it. It said that politics is part and parcel of the praxis of democracy in this country; one cannot be separated from the other, and regretted that the Supreme Court had dismissed   ‘politics’ as one of the ‘avoidable considerations’. It held that setting such wrong priorities would only detract attention from the commercialism, communalism and casteism, which are the real scourges of the campus and the country.


An abridged version of the submission made by the AIFUCTO president, professor Thomas Joseph, and vice president Professor V Swami Nathan before the committee is given below.  


Norms for the conduct of student union elections have to be framed by taking into account the need to ensure proper democratic representation of students in the governance of the colleges and universities.


While the Supreme Court has rightly expressed its concerns about the need for eschewing the role of muscle and money power in student elections, AIFUCTO is of the opinion that it is neither possible nor feasible nor derivable to dissociate politics from the campus. If politics is banned from the campus, the space will be immediately occupied by commercial, communal and casteist forces. Rather steps should be taken to ensure its independence these negative influences. Student unions could be involved in developmental planning and in designing the curriculum and syllabi; such participation would give a greater sense of belonging to the students at large.


Since University students are old enough to exercise their franchise in general elections, similar modified qualifications, disqualifications, privileges and restrictions as applicable to the voters and the candidates in the general elections should be enforced in respect of student union elections as well. The attempt should be to ensure maximum participation of students in the electoral process, both as voters and as candidates, encompassing all students on the rolls with the right to contest and to vote, with no ceiling on age or academic qualifications, and the same constitutional and statutory qualifications and disqualifications, as apply under the Representation of the People Act 1951. Reservation of seats for women as well as for backward communities should be ensured, to give balanced representation of the entire student body. 


Campus violence, associated with union elections is presently on the decline. Though stringent regulations need to be imposed restricting the amount of money spent on campaigns, to Rs 10,000 per candidate the mode campaigns restricting it duration to one week, to ensure no serious inroads are made into the academic schedule. There should be official arranged open campaigns and proper provision for filing of returns before the college/university level Returning Officers responsible for the scrutiny of these returns on the basis of norms framed by the universities concerned.


Election to student unions should be strictly through the system of secret ballots.


Regarding grievance redressal, there should be bodies at the level of the college and universities, presided over respectively by the Principal and Vice Chancellor having statutory power, and including senior professors and teacher representative and syndicate members and teacher representatives, respectively. The university level body to act as the college appellate body and tribunal dealing with service related issues of the university level.


Given the different ground realities in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court should confine itself to framing the broad guidelines, leaving the individual universities to draft the detailed regulations.