A General Body Meeting, with the agenda of voting on the motion of confidence for Dhairya Patel and Shubham Malani was held on February 15, 2017. This Meeting was called to undo the suspension of their powers and post by the action of the Examination Committee against them for malpractice in the 2016-17 first semester comprehensive exams.
In this issue of Spotlight, we intend to cover the provisions in the Students’ Union Constitution for such a motion in such circumstances.
The Students’ Union Constitution of our campus was last ratified in the year 2013. This ratified version is, for all practical purposes, the same as the earlier version (2010 edition) because no amendments were done to it, at least in the sections and clauses that we intend to discuss in the current article. The 2013 ratification happened only because, according to the Constitution itself, it has to be ratified every three years.
There are three sections in the constitution that relate to eligibility to hold an office in the SUC and provisions for impeachments and suspensions.
Section K deals with elections and conditions of suspension from a post.
In Clause 5, it says that any member of the Students’ Union Council “shall cease to hold their respective offices if they fail to fulfil any of the eligibility criteria as mentioned in the relevant clause(s) of this section.”
In addition, Clause 18, prevents any SUC member who has been “found guilty under any offence by the Disciplinary Committee and has been charged with an offence under the category of Tier-I or above” from holding office.
Section P deals with Removal from Office. This section supports the above section in saying that any elected found guilty under any “offence by the Disciplinary Committee and has been charged with an offence under the category of Tier-I or above during their term of office, they will be impeached immediately.”
The issue with the application of Sections K and Section P is that the Examination Committee was formed in the year 2014, a year after the Constitution was last ratified. Therefore, it is not clear under what category an offence under this Committee falls under. Also, it is important to note that the concerned students were awarded Examination Committee actions and not Disciplinary Committee actions, which are not classified into any of the tiers.
Section S of the Constitution deals with Flagrant Violations. This section says that
· “In the event of a flagrant violation being committed, the person responsible for the same shall cease to hold the relevant post” and
· He/she shall return to the post “if a motion of confidence is passed in his favour by at least two–thirds of the concerned electorate.”
· “[T]he motion of confidence shall have to be initiated by at least one-third of the concerned electorate.”
Simply put, if a person in office has committed flagrant violations, they will be suspended from the post they hold. However, they can re-assume the post if a Motion of Confidence is passed in their favour. But, for the Motion of Confidence to be initiated in the first place, 1/3rd of the General Body has to be present.
Two points are noteworthy here:
A flagrant violation has not been defined in the Constitution. It could have been either intended to be a violation by a post holder in his/her capacity as the bearer of that office or a violation anywhere, including Unfair Means. It has to be assumed for now that this has been left to the interpretation of the EC. Yet, the importance of defining ‘Flagrant Violation’ in form of an amendment shouldn’t be discounted.
The section mentions that the quorum required for the initiation is 33% rather than 10% (with was the quorum that was deemed required for the motion in discussion). On a request for comment on this, the EC told us the reduced quorum was recommended by the Associate Dean, SWD, Prof. SS Deshmukh and the Chief Warden, Dr. Kumar Pranav Narayan.
Another point of interest in the GBM of Feb. 15th is that a separate vote of confidence for each of the post holders wasn’t taken. Rather, a single vote for both together was taken. Though objections weren’t raised in this regard in this situation (probably because everyone was in favour of both the candidates), this has a potential of setting a precedence wherein a GB member will have to give vote of confidence to all the persons even if they intend to give it to only one.
Though no constitutional provision was violated in the process of conducting the Vote of Confidence, the vagueness of a couple of provisions led EC to appropriately interpret the Constitution. This vagueness is caused either due to formation of a new committee (Examination Committee) or undefined terms (like ‘Minor and Major’, ‘Flagrant Violations’). Therefore, elimination of this vagueness is more needed now than ever before, lest contradictions arise in future.