The Kerala State University Law Reforms Commission (KSULRC) has recommended trimming the powers of the Chancellor while enhancing the role of the Pro-Chancellor in the University system.
The government-appointed Commission, chaired by former Vice Chancellor of National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS) N.K. Jayakumar, has stood for ensuring the Chancellorship does not involve an overarching role in State Universities.
“It is inconceivable how the Governor, who does not possess any discretionary power acting in the capacity of Governor, can exercise any discretionary power when he is acting as Chancellor ex-officio. The Governor as Chancellor ex-officio can exercise only those powers which are conferred on him by the State Legislative Assembly through legislation,” the Commission report has stated.
Even while taking note of decisions taken by States including West Bengal and Rajasthan in divesting the Governor of the office of Chancellor and vesting the position with the Chief Minister or a senior academician, the Commission has advocated persisting with the existing practice. However, it has recommended changing provisions that empower the Chancellor to take decisions on matters requiring legal knowledge and others that confer discretionary powers “which may lead to arbitrary or biased decisions”.
A University Tribunal, a multi-member expert body consisting of a sitting or former judge of the Supreme Court or High Court as chairman, a senior lawyer and an experienced academic as members, must be entrusted with decision-making in legal matters. Moreover, the Vice Chancellor, “who is familiar with the ground realities”, or the government, “which is ultimately accountable to the people”, must be provided the discretionary powers required to adopt appropriate decisions, the panel stated.
Further downsizing the Chancellor’s powers, the Commission also proposed the inclusion of a provision whereby the Chancellor’s assent to a Statute shall be deemed to have been given on the expiry of 60 days from the date of its submission. While the Chancellor can refer a Statute back to the Senate, it will come into effect if it has been passed by the statutory body again.
Providing a ‘guiding role’ for the Pro-Chancellor, the Commission has suggested that the Higher Education Minister who assumes the responsibility must have the right to call for any information relating to the academic and administrative affairs of State Universities. He/she will also have the right to bring any matter to the attention of the Chancellor, any authority or officer of the university for appropriate action.
The Commission has also recommended increasing the age limit for appointment for the Vice Chancellors from 60 to 65 in all universities to synchronise with the retirement age of professors in Central universities. The Pro-Vice Chancellor will be vested with some existing responsibilities of the Vice Chancellor.
The panel has also called for reducing the sizes of statutory bodies including the Senate, Syndicate, and Academic Council.