Wednesday, 24 August 2016

India: National Green Tribunal Directs Delhi University To Follow A Paperless Election Route

In a recent decision by the Nation Green Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as ‘NGT’) in the case of, Nithin Chandran vs. Union of India, the tribunal held that pasting of pamphlets/flyers within the campus during election time by students to be immensely harmful to the environment. While doing so the tribunal also directed all major varsities/colleges to fully implement the recommendation of the Lyngdoh Commission. 

The said order of the NGT came in pursuance to an application filed last year by a first year Delhi University law student, Nithin Chandran. He was appalled to see the scale in which paper was being wasted in the garb of campaigning/canvassing, and wanted the tribunal to ensure that environment friendly modes of campaigning and canvassing are adopted during the Delhi University Students Union (hereinafter referred to as ‘DUSU’) elections. The respondents in this matter did not have any serious objections to the granting of such relief.

The application also contained quotes from relevant paragraphs of the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, a brief gist of which are reproduced hereunder:-
  1. No candidate shall be permitted to make use of printed posters, printed pamphlets, or any other printed material for the purpose of canvassing. Candidates may only utilize handmade posters for the purpose of canvassing, provided that such hand-made posters are procured within the expenditure limit set out herein above.
  2. Candidates may only utilize hand-made posters at certain places in the campus, which shall be notified in advance by the election commission/university authority.
  3. No candidate shall, nor shall his/her supporters, deface or cause any destruction to any property of the university/college campus, for any purpose whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the college/university authorities. All candidates shall be held jointly and severally liable for any destruction /defacing of any university/college property.
  4. All candidates shall be jointly responsible for ensuring the cleaning up of the polling area within 48 hours of the conclusion of the polling.
In accordance with the application filed by Mr. Chandran the NGT had passed an interim order in September of 2015 whereby it categorically restrained the DUSU “from pasting pamphlets etc. on the walls in the DU campus as well as on the public streets”.  The NGT in its latest order passed in July, observed that the abuse of paper adds to the pollution load on the environment”.

While seriously limiting the freedom of students with respect to their activity during election time in colleges this order comes along with a few pragmatic steps that the tribunal recognizes which does not do away with the use of flyers/pamphlets altogether. It directed the respondents to jointly and severally implement the following steps:-
  1. The University shall not allow use/pasting of posters/pamphlets everywhere within the campus and public streets by the students but only allow the candidates contesting elections or their pre-notified student agents to utilize handmade posters at certain notified places not exceeding two within each campus;
  2. The University shall strictly enforce the Lyngdoh Commission recommendations and for that purpose frame rules or incorporate in the rules governing the students body elections stringent provisions, even to the extent of disqualifying the concerned contestants for implementation of the said Recommendations including these directions;
  3. The University shall take steps to move towards paperless canvassing/campaigning in student elections in the manner aforesaid in accordance with law within two months.
The said order of the tribunal can be accessed over here.

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