Kerala government is considering legal options to remove the Governor as Chancellor of the State Universities.
The move comes amidst the ongoing tussle between the Left front government and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan over the appointment of Vice-Chancellors. In his capacity as the Chancellor of the State Universities, Mr. Khan had asked Vice-Chancellors of 11 State Universities to explain why their appointment should not be considered as “void ab initio” (void from the beginning) in the wake of a recent Supreme Court Order cancelling the appointment of Dr. M.S. Rajasree as Vice-Chancellor of the A. P. J Abdul Kalam Technological University.
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The government is mulling an Ordinance to replace the Governor as Chancellor of the State Universities. Deliberations are on at various levels on the issue and the Law Department is vetting various options, according to people close to the development.
The government is closely looking at the Bill passed by the West Bengal government in June to make the Chief Minister as Chancellor of State Universities. The Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments had also adopted a similar route earlier. There were also reports that the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab is considering a Bill to replace the Governor as Chancellor of State-run Universities.
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The Left government is now holding a position that the Constitution does not envisage the role of Chancellorship for the Governor while stating that the role of ex-officio Chancellor of State Universities was entrusted by the State Legislative Assembly. The Law Department has also recalled the recommendation by the M.M. Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations, which had pointed out in 2010 that the Governor should not be “burdened with positions and powers, which may expose the office to controversies or public criticism”.
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Though the Kerala State University Law Reforms Commission that submitted its report in June 2022 recommended that the present practice of designating the Governor as ex-officio Chancellor may continue, it had pointed out that there is no compulsion on the State Government or the State Legislative Assembly to retain the present position.