Tamil Nadu passes Bill to take over Governor's power to appoint University V-Cs

During his speech, CM Stalin said that the state government — which is charged with making policy decisions — not having the power to appoint V-Cs is impacting higher education.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin
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In an apparent bid to restrict the powers of the Governor, the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday, April 25, adopted a Bill empowering the state government to appoint Vice-Chancellors to 13 universities in the state. Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy tabled the Bill to amend the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws to allow the state government to appoint VCs to the varsities.

The Bill has been adopted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on a day when the Governor of Tamil Nadu RN Ravi is holding a two-day conference of vice-chancellors of Tamil Nadu universities to discuss ideas and action plan for India’s “role in an emerging new world order” and India to be a world leader by 2047 at the Raj Bhavan in Ooty.

During his speech in the Assembly, Chief Minister Stalin said that there were 13 state-run universities in Tamil Nadu, and added that the state government — which is charged with making policy decisions — not having the power to appoint V-Cs is impacting higher education. “While it has been the practice that the Governor consults with the democratically elected (government) on appointing V-Cs, that has been changing in recent times, especially the past four years. The Governor has been acting as if he has a special power in appointing VCs. This habit of not respecting the government, which has the job of providing higher education, can be seen,” he said.

“This is an issue concerning the rights of the state government, of the university educational rights, and of the rights of the government elected by the people,” the CM said, and urged Assembly members to unanimously pass the Bill. The Bill is in keeping with the Gujarat University Act, 1949, Telangana Universities Act, 1991 and Karnataka State Universities Act, 2000, which empower state governments to appoint university V-Cs as well.

In his speech, the CM further pointed out that the Justice Punchhi Commission constituted by the Government of India in 2007 to analyse Union government-state relations, chaired by Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, had recommended that “the Governor should not be vested with the rights to appoint V-Cs, which has not been provided by the Constitution,” citing that there would be “clash of functions and powers.”

The BJP opposed the Bill at the introductory stage while the main opposition AIADMK, taking exception to a remark on late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa by Congress Legislature Party leader K Selvaperunthagai, staged a walkout ahead of the passage of the Bill. Meanwhile, opposition party Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) supported the Bill. Another Bill, to include the Secretary to the Government in-charge of Finance as a syndicate member in all 13 public universities in the state, was also passed on Monday.

Earlier, Chief Minister MK Stalin, while appealing to members to support the government's Bill, said that even in Gujarat, the home-state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, university Vice-Chancellors are not appointed by the Governor but the state.

The passing of the Bill in Assembly comes amid a standoff between the ruling DMK and Governor RN Ravi, over the anti-NEET Bill not being passed by the latter. A row had erupted when, on April 19, a mob of people allegedly belonging to the DMK had staged a black flag protest against the Governor at Mayiladuthurai over the same issue. The opposition, including the AIADMK and the BJP had condemned the protest, with the AIADMK walking out of Assembly on April 20 over the same.

Earlier, the ruling DMK and allies boycotted an 'At Home Reception’ organised by Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi on April 14. Stalin told the state Assembly that the boycott was due to the pending anti-NEET Bill adopted by the House earlier. Post this incident, two state ministers, on April 18, did not attend a university convocation attended by Governor Ravi.

The anti-NEET bill was returned by the Governor to the government on February 1, 2022 for reconsideration. On February 8 this year, the Bill was re-adopted by the Assembly and it was sent to the Raj Bhavan. However, the Governor has not yet forwarded it to the President.

It is also to be noted that the DMK party had, earlier this year, demanded the resignation of the Governor. "If the Governor cannot work according to the Constitution, he should resign," DMK leader TR Baalu said at a press meet on January 5, after the anti-NEET Bill was not forwarded to the President by the Governor. However, this is not the first time DMK had put forth such a demand. The party stalwart CN Annadurai has once stated that the governor post in itself was not needed and compared it to the “uselessness of a beard to a goat”.

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