People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 12

March 19, 2006



SFI’s Memorandum To Lyngdoh Commission


THE Supreme Court has constituted a commission with former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh as the Chairman to frame guidelines for the conduct of the student union elections in universities and affiliated colleges. The Commission is seeking public opinion on the issue before taking a final view and present its conclusions to the Supreme Court.


Students’ Federation of India is organising seminars, discussions and round-table meetings in all major education and university centres. SFI is trying to involve all the elected student unions in the country, including the ones that are not led by it to write to the Commission on this issue. Opinions from eminent intellectuals and public figures too would be collected and sent to the Commission. SFI leaders and students’ union representatives will take part in the discussions in the cities where the Commission is organising its sittings and place their opinions on student union elections.


In the first sitting of the Commission held in Chennai, All India general secretary of SFI, K K Ragesh, state secretary of Tamilnadu G Selva and CEC member Kanakaraj attended and in its sitting in Delhi, R Arun Kumar, All India President, K K Ragesh and Ritabrata Banerjee, All India joint-secretary attended and made the following suggestions.

  1. Students have the right to elect and send their representatives to the Assembly and Parliament as they are given the right to vote at the age of 18. But unfortunately they do not have the right to elect representatives to deal and represent them on the problems they are facing in the campuses.

  2. Participation of students in students union trains them in the working of democracy and makes them a complete citizen aware of their rights and duties. This can also increase the falling voting percentage in the general elections, especially among the educated middle class. They train the would-be citizens of the country to question their representatives and make them accountable for all their deeds. This paves way for a healthy and vibrant participative democracy in our country, which is vital in today’ context of growing apolitical atmosphere.

  3. Experience shows that students unions wherever they exist, promote the latent talents among the students. The various youth festivals organised by the students unions in the universities are the launching pads for young and aspiring artists and sportspersons. They also develop a healthy interaction among the students from across the campuses and promote integration among students of various regional, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, religious and caste backgrounds.

  4. The argument that student union elections lead to student unrest, animosity among the students and group rivalries is totally unfounded. There are many examples like JNU and many universities and colleges in West Bengal, Kerala and central universities where student union elections are held peacefully, in a cordial atmosphere. The instances of some unruly incidents that have happened in some colleges and universities cannot be generalised and used as an excuse to ban student union elections altogether. It is a fact that even during elections to Assembly and Parliament, we find untoward incidents happening and this does not lead us to the conclusion that elections to these august institutions be banned. Violence in a society or a college can be controlled only by strengthening democracy and not by curtailing it. Worldwide experience shows that democracy and dialogue solve many problems that a war and dictatorship cannot. The same should be the case for student union elections too. 

  5. Elections should be held either directly or indirectly according to the specific conditions existing in the respective universities. The universities should be given the prerogative to decide on the nature of the elections that are to be conducted in consultation with the student community. Some uniform guidelines that can be generally applied to all the universities can be formulated like electing the representatives through a secret ballot. All the representatives for a college students’ union will be elected through a secret ballot wherein all the students of the college would vote for them.

  6. We feel that the students’ union elections should be conducted by an election commission elected by the students in a general body meeting of the students of that particular institute. The general body should elect the Commission, which should be representative and has the powers to decide on the conduct of the election-campaign period, number of banners/posters that can be put up, amount of money that can be spent, etc- in a non-partisan manner (this system is existing in some of the central universities). The ruling of the Commission on the elections should be final on all the candidates contesting the elections.

  7. Students’ Federation of India (SFI) is against the excessive usage of money in the student union elections. It should be discouraged and checked in a democratic manner by involving the students in decision-making process to fix the ceiling on the money that can be spent, and also the action that can be taken on the violators. A ceiling should be fixed depending on the size of the college and this should not exceed Rs 20,000. Candidates giving money or gift to any voter in order to procure the vote, giving, providing or paying, wholly or in part, for any food, drink or entertainment for any voter in order to procure the vote should be disqualified from the elections with the right to appeal. The Election Commission should possess this right to disqualify a candidate. The Election Commission can control the expenditure by insisting that the entire publicity material of the candidate be approved by it and only then displayed. Candidates violating this order would be liable to attract the provisions of disqualification. This would help in keeping the expenditure of the candidates in check and also ensure that the candidates do not campaign in the name of religion, caste, region and other divisive agenda.

Similarly, at the end of their tenure, the students union should submit its accounts to the general body, which should have the power to decide on any cases of impropriety. The general body after passing the accounts should decide for the conduct of the elections for the new union.

  1. We are also against the use of ‘muscle-power’ in student union elections. It should not be allowed in student union elections and this can be ensured only by involving the students in the process and not by framing some authoritarian rules.

  2. Every student in the concerned institution should have the right to vote and contest in the elections irrespective of the academic performance and other curricular activities. If merit is made the criteria for contesting student union elections, students coming from rural areas, tribal, dalit, and other backward sections are usually in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis merit when compared with their counterparts from urban and well-to-do families and as such will be deprived of the opportunity to contest elections. Social concern and consciousness apart, the will to serve the student community should be the criteria for the students contesting elections.

  3. Student organisations should be allowed to field their candidates in the elections and campaign for them. Sufficient time should be given to the candidates to approach the students, place their agenda before them and seek their votes. The agenda of the contestants should be such that it does not discriminate and divide students on religious, regional, caste, gender and linguistic basis.

  4. Student union elections should be conducted in all the campuses in our country every year. The academic life of a student in an education institute is very short. Students in +2 courses and Post Graduate courses are in the campus for only two years. If elections are not conducted every year they will not be able to ensure the accountability of the elected candidates. Moreover, students studying in the final year in all the stages will be denied the opportunity to contest the elections.

  5. Candidates contesting elections should be given sufficient time to meet the students personally, explain about their agenda and seek votes on this basis. At least 21 days from the day of notifying elections should be provided. If the candidates are given sufficient time to directly meet all the students, the money spent on indirect campaigning like posters etc too would come down.