Explained | Kerala Government’s Bills to remove the Governor as Chancellor of State Universities

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | Kerala Government’s Bills to remove the Governor as Chancellor of State Universities” published in The Hindu on 15th December 2022

What is the News?

Kerala Assembly has passed the University Laws (Amendment) Bill,2022.

What are the University Laws (amendment) Bill?

The Bill amends the statutes of 14 universities established by legislative Acts in Kerala and removes the Governor as the Chancellor of those universities. 

The Bill will supplant the Governor and give the government power to appoint eminent academicians as Chancellors of various universities, thus ending the Governor’s watchdog role in university administration. 

The Bills also provide provisions to limit the term of the appointed chancellor to five years. However, it also says that the serving chancellor can be reappointed for another term.

Why has the State Government introduced this Bill?

The State government has claimed that the bill was brought to implement the recommendation of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations.

The commission had recommended refraining from burdening the Governor with positions and powers which are not envisaged by the Constitution and which may lead the office to controversies or public criticism.

What are the arguments against the bill?

The Bills would give the State Government more leeway in appointing its own nominees as VCs of State Universities. This would mean a transfer of power over university administration from the Governor and the UGC to the State Government. 

How can this issue be settled while maintaining the autonomy of State universities?

A probable solution to the tug-of-war between the Governor and the State government regarding the governance of State universities was put forward by the M. Anandakrishnan Committee set up by the Kerala State Higher Education Council in 2009 to review the Acts of Universities of Kerala. 

The committee recommended that universities should have complete autonomy in academic and administrative matters.

It suggested creating statutory structures that would distance the Governor [as Chancellor] and Minister for Higher Education [as Pro-Chancellor] from the day-to-day administration of the universities.

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