Maha gov't to withdraw bill curbing power of Governor to appoint VCs of state varsities

The amendment was aimed at curbing the powers of the Governor with whom the then Uddhav Thackeray-led government shared an uneasy relationship
Maharashtra Chief Minister | Pic: EdexLive
Maharashtra Chief Minister | Pic: EdexLive

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday, September 27, decided to withdraw a bill moved by the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) administration that curtailed the powers of the Governor in the appointment of vice-chancellors (VCs) to state universities.

The bill, passed by the legislature last year, empowered the Maharashtra government to recommend to the Governor names for appointment as vice-chancellors in state universities, as stated in a report by PTI.

The decision to roll back the bill that amended the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016, was taken at a state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The Act was amended by the previous Shiv Sena-led MVA government.

The amendment was aimed at curbing the powers of the Governor with whom the then Uddhav Thackeray-led government shared an uneasy relationship.

In December 2021, the state legislature passed the bill during the winter session. The bill was, however, not given assent on the grounds that it was against the provisions of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

“Considering this background, it was decided to take back the bill,” said an official statement issued after the cabinet meeting, as per PTI. The Governor is the chancellor of universities in the state.

What was the earlier mechanism?

Under the earlier mechanism, a VC was appointed by the chancellor on the recommendation of a committee, which comprised a nominee of the chancellor, who is a retired judge of the Supreme Court or HC, principal secretary of the higher and technical education department and director or head of an institute of national repute established by an Act of Parliament.

Other states

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi on August 17, appointed VCs to three State universities. This came even as the bills passed by the TN government seeking to empower itself to appoint VCs to 13 State varsities, including these three, are awaiting the Governor’s assent, as stated in a report by The New Indian Express.

The bills seek to replace the Governor as Chancellor of State-run universities with the Chief Minister to ensure that the State government can appoint VCs for these varsities. Introducing the bills, CM MK Stalin had said there had been a trend of the Governor appointing VCs without consulting the State government. He said the inability of the government to appoint VCs for varsities in its control had led to confusion and affected the administration, as per The New Indian Express.

Similarly, the West Bengal Assembly too in June this year, passed a Bill that paved the way for appointing the Chief Minister as Chancellor of state-run universities, replacing the Governor who usually occupies that position. The Governor’s consent on the Bill is however awaited.

In Kerala too, turmoil has been brewing between the Governor and the Kerala University. According to reports, the Governor, who is also the chancellor of the university, formed a search committee for finding the next VC for Kerala University, on August 5, without waiting for the university to name its representative for the committee. While protesting against this, a meeting of the senate (of the university) was summoned to pass a resolution against the Governor.

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