The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) whether it had prior to 2018 insisted on individual poll expense bills from elected members of the varsity’s student union after their election.
Justice Yogesh Khanna posed the query to the university while hearing a plea by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) challenging the varsity’s decision to not notify the elected office bearers and barring them from performing their duties for not providing separate bills of their individual poll expenses.
Stressing that the JNU should have followed the laid down procedure, the court said that the matter should have been first placed before the grievance redressal committee which would have heard the students’ side and taken a decision but instead the decision was taken by the Dean of Students.
“Verify your (JNU) records with regard to situation in previous years and let me know,” the judge said and listed the matter for further hearing on March 14.
The JNU, represented by central government standing counsel Monika Arora and advocate Harsh Ahuja, told the court that as per Lyngdoh committee recommendations poll expenses have to be furnished within 15 days of declaration of the results, but the JNUSU office bearers gave a collective bill of 19 persons who had contested under one banner for different posts. Arora argued that separate bills were required to be furnished and despite several reminders, the students have not done so.
She also said that the collective bills given do not contain any name or signatures nor do they state the purpose for which it was generated.
The JNUSU and its office bearers, represented by senior advocate Akhil Sibal and advocate Abhik Chimni, told the court that in elections prior to 2018 individual bills were never insisted upon. The students’ lawyers also contended that under the Lyngdoh committee recommendations only an audited statement of accounts was required and not individual bills.
Taking note of the students’ contention, the court said, “The Lyngdoh committee recommendations were there earlier also. Why the shift to it this time? What changed now?
“If you intended to implement the recommendation, you (JNU) should have told them (students) before the elections and not after that. If you do not tell them before the elections, they will go by the past practice.” The court also said that the matter should have been first placed before the grievance redressal committee. Instead, the Dean of Students took a decision in a meeting to not notify the elected office bearers and to bar them from attending meetings of various student committees and councils, the court observed.
“How could the dean take a decision? It should have been placed before the grievance redressal committee first,” the court said and added “you (JNU) should have followed the procedure you have laid down”.
JNUSU president N Sai Balaji and other office bearers, in the petition, have said that they are aggrieved by the “arbitrary and illegal acts” of the university and dean of students in illegally obstructing their participation in the various committees/councils set up under the JNU Act, 1966, statutes and ordinances citing the specious reason of non-issuance of the requisite notification.
The petitioners are the elected office-bearers of the JNUSU for the academic year 2018-2019 and had won the elections conducted on September 14, 2018. The plea has sought a direction to JNU to declare the petitioners to be elected office bearers of JNUSU.
It has also sought a declaration that the Dean of Students has no powers under the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations to recognise/de-recognise/nullify the elections to JNUSU which are held annually at the university.