GST threat to JNU union

The problem is that none of the bills—of photocopiers on the campus who print political pamphlets, or canteens where the activists snacked during the campaign —have GST numbers

The newly elected representatives of the JNU students’ union, which the Left has swept for the third straight time since the sedition controversy broke, have been warned their election “will be nullified” if they don’t “submit original bills bearing GST number” of their poll expenses.

The problem is that none of the bills—of photocopiers on the campus who print political pamphlets, or canteens where the activists snacked during the campaign —have GST numbers. Businesses with annual turnovers less than Rs 20 lakh are exempt from paying GST.

The Left student representatives have condemned the “intimidation and attempts to nullify an elected JNUSU”. If the election, whose results were declared on September 16, is nullified, JNU may not have a students’ union for the rest of this academic year.

The Lyngdoh committee, which recommended student election reforms, capped the poll expenses at Rs 5,000 per candidate. JNU is one of the few universities where the rule is followed to the letter, with the candidates often spending less than the ceiling as panels of candidates share expenses, hand-painted posters are used, and travel expenses are nil because it is a residential campus.

In a letter on October 12 to the 19 Left candidates (including all the four office-bearers and 14 other elected councillors) — who had submitted a combined statement of expenditure —dean of students Umesh Kadam said “the bills submitted are not in accordance with clause 6.6.2” of the Lyngdoh recommendations. This clause requires all candidates to submit completed and audited accounts within two weeks of the declaration of results.

“It is further informed that each candidate is required to submit original bills bearing GST number,” failing which “the election of the candidate will be nullified under clause 6.6.3”, Kadam said.

The newly elected office-bearers aren’t allowed to participate in decision-making bodies like the academic council until their election is notified by Kadam’s office. They have already missed one meeting of the academic council.

In a reply to Kadam on Monday, the 19 said they had spent a total of Rs 92,634, which amounts to Rs 4,875.50 per candidate, details of which were submitted on September 28. After Kadam demanded the bills a week later, these were furnished on October 9.

“The format in which we submitted the expenditure is exactly the same in which we have submitted accounts every year since implementation of the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations, from the year 2012,” the Left students’ reply said.

“It is important to note that till this day, neither the administration nor any authority has specifically given us any guidelines or details on the process for submitting (statements of) election expenditure.”

They added: “We would like to bring to the notice of the DoS (dean of students) that we are not liable to know whether the concerned shop from which we bought articles is eligible for GST or not…. Further, we are shocked at the DoS’ threat to nullify the candidates elected to JNUSU! If the administration’s concern is not about transparency in the election expenditure but more about intimidation and attempts to nullify an elected JNUSU, it sets a dangerous precedent.”

Kadam told The Telegraph: “We are supposed to audit individual bills but they have submitted a collective bill that is not even countersigned by each candidate…. If not GST number, than at least a PAN or TIN number of the shop must be given, else it cannot be accepted by auditors.”

Asked about the departure from the process followed in previous years, Kadam said: “Every year there are new rules of auditing…. We have requested them to comply and have not taken action even though four weeks have passed.”

Students’ union president Balaji told this newspaper: “This letter comes shortly after we filed a complaint of plagiarism with the HRD (human resource development) ministry against teachers who are close to the administration.”

He suggested that nullifying the election might not just be “bad in the letter of the law as there is no specified format to submit accounts but also in spirit, as it would amount to removing a non-pliant union elected with a huge majority, in a university which spends the least amount for its elections”.



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