Assembly passes Bills to replace Governor as Chancellor of universities

Selection panel chaired by the CM and comprising the Speaker and LoP to come into being

Published - December 13, 2022 08:49 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The Assembly on Tuesday passed two University Law (Amendment) Bills to replace the Governor as the Chancellor of 14 State universities.

The legislations, subject to the Governor’s assent, will enable the State government to appoint academicians or “persons of eminence” in various fields of knowledge, including agriculture and veterinary science, technology, medicine, social science, humanities, literature, art, culture, law or public administration as Chancellors in all State universities except the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, and Kerala Kalamandalam.

The Opposition, United Democratic Front (UDF), staged a walkout in protest against the refusal to accept the amendments they proposed to the Bill. They also accused the Left Democratic Front (LDF) of attempting to erode the autonomy of universities and turn them into Marxist centres.

The Opposition sprung a surprise during the discussion as they moved a motion to appoint a Chancellor for the 14 universities instead of separate Chancellors for each.

They also mooted bringing a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court to the post and creating a selection committee comprising the Chief Minister, Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court and the Leader of Opposition for the purpose to ensure fairness in the process.

However, Law Minister P. Rajeeve, who piloted the University Laws (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2022, and the University Laws (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill, 2022, on behalf of the Chief Minister, highlighted the potential legal hurdles in including the Chief Justice on the panel.

He, instead, proposed the inclusion of the Speaker on the panel that would be chaired by the Chief Minister and also have the Leader of the Opposition as a member. He pointed out the composition of the selection committee would be similar to that of various statutory bodies, including the Lok Ayukta. The amendment was later adopted by the Assembly.

The Minister refused to accept the other proposals that were made by the Opposition. On the proposal to appoint a single Chancellor for all universities, he said the government chose to keep all possible options open by amending the laws governing each university. He also said the government did not intend to restrict its choice for Chancellorship by accepting the Opposition’s proposal to reserve the position to former judges.

While this prompted the Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan to accuse the State government of paving the ground to bring people they favoured to the helm of the universities before leading the boycott of the proceedings, Mr. Rajeeve retorted by saying the decision to walk out was a pre-planned one and influenced by political interests.

The House also adopted the subject committee’s recommendation to modify the proposed provision to authorise Pro-Vice-Chancellors to discharge the functions of the Vice-Chancellor in his/her temporary absence. This has been replaced by a provision that will pave the way for the Chancellor to make necessary arrangements for exercising the powers and performing the duties of the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Pro-Chancellor.

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