Tamil Nadu Clips Governor’s Power To Appoint University V-Cs
The Tamil Nadu Assembly has adopted two Bills to limit the Governor’s power to appoint vice-chancellors (V-Cs) to 13 State universities. At present, the power of appointing vice-chancellors of these universities lies with the governor, who is the chancellor of these universities.
The two Bills The Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2022, which covers 12 universities, and the Chennai University (Amendment) Act, 2022, which governs the functioning of Chennai University. — were adopted by a voice vote. The Bills passed in Tamil Nadu stress that “every appointment of the Vice-Chancellor shall be made by the Government from out of a panel of three names” recommended by a search-cum-selection committee. The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed. Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary, according to one of the Bills.
While the legislations still require the Governor’s assent to become law, analysts viewed the DMK government’s move as a means of registering its protest against the actions of Ravi, who has been sitting on many Bills, including the NEET Exemption Bill. The Bills said, according to the Acts in Gujarat, Telangana and Karnataka, the V-C shall be appointed by the Chancellor with the concurrence of the State government. The regulations, which differ from state to state, are often open to interpretation and disputes are routine. The terms “concurrence” or “consultation” are absent from state legislation in most cases. As per the rules, any pre-Independence law has to get the President’s approval for even a minor amendment. “Since it’s a 1923 Act, the state will have to send it to the President of India for his assent. This Bill will go via the governor to the President.
The Bills are likely to curtail the powers of the governor over the appointment of vice-chancellors amid allegations that the governor often acts at the behest of the Union government that appoints him. The Tamil Nadu governor has many times rejected the selection committee's recommendations on vice-chancellor posts in the past. The standoff between the state government and the governor has even reached Parliament, with DMK MPs demanding recall of Ravi.
A Bench of Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna said “any appointment as a Vice Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto”. It said every subordinate legislation of the UGC, in this case the one on minimum standards on appointments, flows from the parent UGC Act, 1956. “Therefore, being a subordinate legislation, UGC Regulations become part of the Act. In case of any conflict between state legislation and central legislation, central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject ‘education’ is in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution,” it ruled.
The practice of the Governors heading the Universities of a State in India as Chancellors is a British legacy. The power, pomp and paraphernalia associated with the Governors of British India lent credence to the post of the Chancellor of the Universities. But in recent times, the role of Governor-Chancellor has become more controversial. The issue in question are whether the state Governor in his capacity as a Chancellor of the University’s administration can enjoy only marginal discretion like that of his discretion in political issues or more. Can University autonomy and academic excellence be better achieved and protected at the hands of the political-Chancellor ? Whether it is proper to vest the responsibility of the destiny of a University in a single person such as Chancellor while the business of running the University, making suitable legislation, finding proper finance and laying down educational policy, etc., rests with the State Government ? These questions are pertinent and need to be discovered.