An Insight into the CDC’s Second Open Meeting
By Anirudh S.K., ASP'23
You and I will vote in two weeks on whether to confirm a new Constitution for the Student Government. Have you checked it out yet?
On 12 August, representatives of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) – Yasashvi Paarakh, Harsh Gupta and Jonathan Sujaya Kumar – discussed the progress made on the new Constitution and its supplementary documents (known as ‘annexures’) in an open meeting which was attended by around 16 people including CDC members. Their notable announcements included the decision to hold fresh elections in October, expanding the Student Government (SG) beyond undergraduate students, and forming new rules dictating the SG’s conduct.
The CDC was formed by the incumbent SG in May with the task of creating a new Constitution to govern student politics at Ashoka. This followed claims by the SG that the existing Constitution impeded its functioning. In its last open meeting, the CDC proposed the creation of a Prime Ministerial post in the SG, to serve as head of cabinet.
The CDC began the open meeting by announcing its decision to commence fresh elections to the House of Representatives in October. Unlike its predecessors, this new House will have less than fifteen members and last only five months. However, it will function just like a full House.
Calling it the “Bridge House,” the CDC explained that it is intended to simulate a “trial run of the new system” and to reinvigorate the Interim SG as it completes one year in office, following the failed elections and the unprecedented extension of its tenure The Bridge House will transition into a full-term, fifteen-member House following elections in Spring 2023.
A salient feature of the House elections of Spring 2023 is that all cohorts at Ashoka will contest them. Until now, only undergraduate students were allowed to contest elections to the SG. The CDC expressed its desire to see more “cross-cohort engagement” as a result of this change. An attendee suggested that Young India Fellows (or YIFs, one of Ashoka’s post-graduate cohorts) not be included in the SG, because they have their own committees in place. Yasashvi replied that the CDC intends the Bridge House to formulate this change in more detail.
The bulk of the meeting was a discussion of the CDC’s proposed Finance Control Policy, Constitution, and Rules of Procedure respectively. The first and third documents are annexures to the Constitution.
The Finance Control Policy is a set of rules that regulate how the SG acquires and spends money. This Policy involves matters such as disputes between the SG and the Office of Student Affairs, Right to Information requests dealing with the SG’s finances, the provision for a Financial Oversight Committee to investigate financial wrongdoing, and procedures for handling student-initiated fundraisers.
The Rules of Procedure regulate how SG members – House and Cabinet members, the President (leader of the House), the Prime Minister (leader of the Cabinet), and the Leader of Opposition – are elected, suspended, and removed from office; how SG members may propose and vote on issues; and the formation of Committees to facilitate collaborations between the House and various Ministries.
While the CDC said that suspending a President is not viable as many SG procedures depend on the President’s discretion, the Rules of Procedure suggests in Section I that a President may be suspended for failing to attend three consecutive non-emergency meetings. Additionally, a comment made on the same document indicates that the CDC might work in a procedure to suspend Presidents.
The CDC will have its last open meeting on the 19th of August, where it will discuss how the Election Commission will be formed, how exactly the Bridge House will work, and the Mandates annexure of the proposed Constitution.
All these ideas – the new Constitution and its annexures, cross-cohort engagement, and ideas for forming the Election Commission – are still just ideas. They will only come into force if and when the undergraduate student body agrees with the CDC’s proposals on referendum day, which is scheduled for the last week of August.
The CDC is open to inputs from the student body, so you can have your say at the next open meeting or make comments on the CDC’s public documents.
Whatever the results of the constitutional referendum turn out to be, they are guaranteed to have far-reaching consequences for Ashoka’s student politics and the ethos of its student body.