Read Order: Panjab University Sector 14 Chandigarh & Anr vs Keshav Malhotra & Ors 

LE Staff

Chandigarh, July 8, 2021: A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday said the direction issued by a single judge in March this year with regard to holding of senate elections in the Chandigarh-based Panjab University (PU) needs to be complied with.

A bench of Justices Augustine George Masih and Ashok Kumar Verma directed the PU counsel to place on record by July 16 the schedule for holding the elections and deferred the matter again for July 19.

Observing that the election process needs to be held at the earliest to prevent “autocratic governance” in Panjab University, the single bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh in a strongly-worded judgement on March 23 had directed the varsity’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Raj Kumar, to ensure that the electoral process for the Senate polls is completed within two months by all means.

The order had come in response to the petition filed by seven of the 90 senators, demanding that the Senate elections be held at the earliest. They had alleged that under the influence of the ruling party, there was manipulation to not hold Senate polls even though the election process had already begun. The petitioners before the single judge bench had said the deferment of the polls by the V-C was illegal and uncalled for.

The PU Senate’s term had ended on October 31 last year. However, the elections were not held and were deferred indefinitely by the varsity’s V-C, for the first time since the country’s Partition, on the ground of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The PU authorities, however, went for appeal against the single bench order as they were not inclined to hold elections due to the outbreak of the second wave of Covid-19.

The PU counsel stated that there are a total of 3,75,500 voters in the Senate polls who are spread across six states. Keeping in view the present pandemic situation, it is not possible to hold the election, the court was told. 

The PU counsel also argued that the single bench judgment of March 23 was not only contrary to facts but also contrary to three division bench judgments of the high court in which the decisions on various steps taken in view of the pandemic were upheld in matters of admissions etc.

In the interim order, the division bench on Thursday stated that keeping in view the present pandemic situation as it exists, the court is of the firm view that the direction issued by the single bench with regard to holding of the elections at the University needs to be complied with. 

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