Assembly passes University Laws (Amendment) Bill

Ruling front says changes must for keeping Sangh Parivar forces at bay in varsity administration

Updated - September 01, 2022 07:46 pm IST

Published - September 01, 2022 07:10 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The Assembly on Thursday passed the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which alters the composition of the search-cum-selection committee to appoint Vice Chancellors and effectively provide the State government greater leverage in the process.

While the Opposition staged a walkout accusing the government of attempting to relegate universities to the status of party offices, the treasury benches said the Bill was driven by the compulsions of keeping Sangh Parivar forces at bay in the administration of universities.

While the Bill awaits the Governor’s assent, its passage will enhance the appointment age of Vice Chancellors to 65 years and increase the strength of the selection committee to five (from the existing three). The government had initially proposed the inclusion of the vice chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) as convener of the committee. But, Higher Education Minister R. Bindu moved an official amendment to bring an academic expert who is nominated by the council vice chairman as replacement to the particular position.

The committee

The move comes amidst claims that the inclusion of the KSHEC vice chairman, who could be perceived as linked to universities by way of his/her position, could be in violation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations.

The other members of the committee will include one nominee each of the State government, UGC, Chancellor and the university Senate. In the absence of a unanimous choice, the panel decided by a majority of members can be submitted to the Chancellor.

Even while reiterating that the legislation would not curtail the Chancellor’s powers, Dr. Bindu said universities could not completely disassociate themselves with State governments. She cited the laws that govern universities in States including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where the governments play a key role in the appointment of Vice Chancellors.

Former Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel (Independent) bluntly alluded to the political motive behind the Bill. “Two nominees (those of the Chancellor and the UGC) are bound to nominate Sangh Parivar-backed candidates. Under such circumstances, the State government cannot remain a mute spectator when attempts are made to bring such persons at the helm of universities. A similar attempt had been thwarted in Calicut University,” he alleged.

Opposition charge

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan cautioned the Bill would set a dangerous precedent in the higher education sector by eroding the autonomy of universities.

Alleging the proposed law is aimed at bringing universities under the firm grip of the government, Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) said the amendments were legally untenable and would not prevail over the UGC norms.

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