West Bengal Governor indulging in dictatorial practices, bent on destroying universities, says Minister

Minister’s criticism comes after Governor appointed interim Vice-Chancellors to 16 State universities without consulting the State government 

September 04, 2023 08:30 pm | Updated 08:30 pm IST - Kolkata

Bratya Basu. File.

Bratya Basu. File. | Photo Credit: Ashoke Chakrabarty

The ongoing tussle between the Raj Bhavan and the West Bengal government touched a new low on September 4 with State’s Education Minister Bratya Basu accusing the Governor of behaving like a “court jester” and indulging in “dictatorial practices” in a bid to destroy universities in the State.

The Minister’s scathing criticism came after the Governor appointed interim Vice-Chancellors to 16 State universities late on Sunday evening without holding consultations with the State government. 

The government later wrote to the Raj Bhavan seeking withdrawal of the notification.

The Minister said the powers of the Chancellor are based on the Acts passed by the Assembly and that the Governor’s move was “violative” of the University Acts. “Sometimes he [the Governor] is saying he will discharge the duties of V-C, sometimes he is saying that he is the Chancellor. Sometimes he is appointing Vice-Chancellors without consulting the State Higher Education Department and insulting an elected Chief Minister. Sometimes he is removing the Vice-Chancellors who have good relations with the State government,” the Minister told journalists. The Governor was behaving like a “court jester”, he said.

The fresh set of postings by the Governor include appointment of Justice (retd) Subhra Kamal Mukherjee, who currently holds interim charge of Rabindra Bharati University, as the interim Vice-Chancellor of the prestigious Presidency University. Other appointees include Prof. Raj Kumar Kothari (interim V-C of West Bengal State University), Prof. Debabrata Basu (Uttar Banga Krishi Vishwavidyalaya), Prof. Tapan Chanda (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology), Prof. Gautam Chakraborty (University of Burdwan), Prof. Indrajit Lahiri (Netaji Subhas Open University), and Prof. Shyam Sundar Dana (the West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences).

None of 31 State-run universities have full-time Vice-Chancellors. Since May 2023, the Governor has been appointing interim Vice-Chancellors much to displeasure of the West Bengal government. A section of academicians from the State, including the Vice-Chancellors who have been unceremoniously removed, have accused the Governor of not following laid down procedures. 

Notification war

Later on Monday, the Special Commissioner, University Branch of West Bengal, wrote to the Senior Special Secretary to the Governor of West Bengal and asked that the notification by the Raj Bhavan dated September 2 be withdrawn.

“The communication should not have been issued by the Governor’s Secretariat or signed by Senior Special Secretary to the Governor of West Bengal, as the Chancellor is a creature of Statute and does not exercise any power as Governor when acting as Chancellor of a University, and such Special Secretary cannot represent the Chancellor,” the letter by the State Government said.

The communication by the Raj Bhavan on September 2 signed by Senior Special Secretary to the Governor said university officials were “not mandated” to take orders directly from the State government. “The officers of the university are to execute the orders issued by the Vice-Chancellor and they are not mandated to take orders directly from the government or to execute it without the knowledge and consent of the V-C,” a notification by the Raj Bhavan said.

The State government notification on September 4 also called that the “circular bearing no-931-S issued by you (Senior Special Secretary to the Governor) on September 2, 2023, may kindly be placed before the Hon’ble Chancellor so that necessary and appropriate action may be taken for its withdrawal” .

 

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