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Kerala’s University Laws (Amendment) Bills

Context:

The Kerala government has passed the two University Laws (amendment) Bills in the State Assembly to amend laws relating to the governance of State universities and to remove Governor as the Chancellor of said universities.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What do the Bills say?
  2. Why is the State government amending University laws?
  3. Arguments against the Bill

What do the Bills say?

  • The proposed legislations will amend the statutes of 14 universities established by legislative Acts in Kerala and remove the Governor as the Chancellor.
  • The Bills will 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.

Why is the State government amending University laws?

  • The Minister for Law while tabling the Bills, pointed out that the UGC guidelines, which earlier used to be considered mandatory for Central universities and “partially mandatory and partially directive” for State universities, had been made legally binding for all universities by way of recent rulings by the Supreme Court.
  • Worryingly, such precedence pointed towards a scenario in which the legislative powers of the Assembly on all subjects on the Concurrent List (of the Constitution) could be undermined through a subordinate legislation or an executive order issued by the Centre.
  • Moreover, the State government has claimed the recommendation of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations to refrain 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 as the rationale behind the Bills.

Arguments against the Bill

  • As described above, 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.
  • The Opposition fears that the State Government would try to turn State universities into its fiefdom, leading to the erosion of the autonomy universities enjoy.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2023
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