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Maharashtra Government Revokes Bill That Limited Governor’s Power to Appoint VCs in Universities

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The Maharashtra government has withdrawn the amendments proposed to the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016 last year. The amendments limited the governor’s authority to appoint vice-chancellors for the universities. As per the proposal, the names of the candidates for VCs would be recommended to the governor by a government-appointed selection committee. Although the amendment bill was passed in the state legislature, it was yet to get a nod from the governor, reported Free Press Journal.

The state’s minister of higher and technical education was to be appointed the pro-chancellor of universities as part of the amendment approved by the state legislature during the 2021 winter session. The bill also allowed the government to appoint members of the university senate and management council. Further, the pro-chancellor was given the authority to seek any information pertaining to the academic and administrative affairs of the institution.

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“The bill had amended sections 11 and 13 of the Public Universities Act. Students and teachers as well as citizens had requested the Governor not to sign it. Some sections of the bill went against the UGC rules. As a result, the Governor had reserved the bill to be referred to the President,” as reported by the CM’s Office.

According to a leading news daily, under the amendments, the government panel was supposed to suggest five contenders for the position of vice-chancellor. Of those nominees, the government will recommend two to the governor, who also serves as chancellor of state universities. Then within 30 days, the governor had to choose one of the two candidates for the position of vice-chancellor.

According to a former vice-chancellor who served on one of the committees that drafted the 2016 Act, the government conducted a thorough analysis before drafting the Act and its provisions. Hence, the changes proposed last year threatened the autonomy of public universities.

A group of experts led by the former UGC chairman Sukhdev Thorat submitted recommendations that led to the amendments. The panel was established to make amendments to the Act that would allow the national education policy to be implemented effectively.

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Earlier, the West Bengal cabinet had approved the proposal to make the chief minister as the chancellor of the state-based universities. As per the current system followed across the country, the governor is appointed as the chancellor of state government run universities. Now, Bengal wants chief minister Mamata Banerjee to take that place. The state government will have to pass a bill in the Assembly and change the current law and the governor has to give his consent before it becomes an act.

The MK Stalin-led administration in Tamil Nadu too has curtailed governor RN Ravi’s power to appoint vice chancellors of universities in the state. The DMK government has passed three bills to stop the governor from picking vice chancellors for state universities. The first two bills were passed with the expression “chancellor” being replaced with “government” on April 25. The third bill too has been cleared that added Dr Ambedkar Law University to the list of institutions where the Stalin government can decide whom to appoint as VC.

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