Monday, December 12, 2011

Modi govt ready with plans to clip Guv’s wings

Locked in a bitter feud with the Governor over several issues, particularly the appointment of a new Lokayukta without consulting it, the state government is set to strike back with a plan to strip the Raj Bhawan of powers to appoint vice-chancellors of the state-run universities.

Governor Kamla Beniwal, who is the ex-officio chancellor of over a dozen state-run universities, had ignored the state government’s advice while appointing a number of vice-chancellors a few months ago.

Now, the state government plans to amend its Universities Act to curb the Governor’s powers to interfere in the educational matters.

Sources close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi said the proposed amendment will rely heavily on Justice Punchhi Commission’s report on Centre-State relations, which is said to have recommended that the Governors should be restrained from meddling into educational matters of the state.

The Punchhi Commission, appointed by the UPA government in 2007 and headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice (retired) Madan Mohan Punchhi, submitted its report in March 2010.

“The government is very annoyed with the Governor’s move to appoint the pro-Congress Dr DR Korat as Bhavnagar University’s V-C last month and Hemakshi Rao as North Gujarat University’s V-C a few months ago without consulting the state government,” sources said.

After legal consultations, the state’s Education Department has submitted a proposal to amend all the state universities Acts to remove the provision of Governor’s role as chancellor of universities and do away with powers of the Governor to appoint V-Cs.

The department is also planning to write to the University Grants Commission to amend the model university act as per Justice Punchhi Commission’s recommendations.

Sources confirmed the state Education Department has submitted the report to the General Administration Department (GAD) of the state government to put it before CM Narendra Modi and the Cabinet for a final decision.

The proposed amendment is likely to be tabled in upcoming budget session in February-March next year.

The Punchhi Commission, in its report, has questioned the practice of appointing Governors as Chancellors in state universities. “Although there have been no judicial pronouncements that deal with the implications of vesting this sort of powers with the Governor, there have been cases that posit that in his capacity as a Chancellor of a university, the Governor acts in his discretion and not on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers,” it has said.

University acts in the states generally provide that the Governor shall be the ex-officio Chancellor of the state-run universities and be vested with powers such as appointing vice-chancellors.

“The question is whether the Governor’s functions as Chancellor of a university fall within the purview of Article 163(1), because this would imply that a Governor is bound to act on the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers in the discharge of his functions as Chancellor. There have been instances where, in selecting vice-chancellors, Governors as chancellors have acted in their discretion, overruling the advice of the Council of Ministers,” the Commission noted in its report.

The Commission also noted that “making the Governor the Chancellor of the universities and thereby conferring powers on him which may have had some relevance historically has ceased to be so with change of times and circumstances”.

“The Council of Ministers will naturally be interested in regulating university education and there is no need to perpetuate a situation where there would be a clash of functions and powers. The Commission is also of the view that Governor should not be assigned functions casually under any statute. His role should be confined to the Constitutional provisions only,” the report said.

Sources close to the development said the state government is also considering the possibility of incorporating other recommendations made by the Punchhi Commission to limit Governor’s role in state administration, including “impeachment by the state Legislature like the provision of President’s impeachment by the Parliament.”

Lawyer and constitutional expert Girish Patel says that as per the Constitution, there is no role for Governor in non-constitutional matters of the state, like acting as Chancellor of universities. “In Gujarat, according to various university acts, there are different provisions. For instance, in MS University, a member of the former royal family of Baroda acts as Chancellor and the Governor has no role to play there.”



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