Universities in Madhya Pradesh deprived of autonomy
Posted October 28, 2014on:
The BJP government of Madhya Pradesh has done what the BJP-appointed Governor had adroitly prevented the Congress government of Digvijaya Singh from doing — taking away the autonomy of the State’s universities. Now the universities in the State are, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Higher Education Department of the State Government.
An Amendment to the Madhya Pradesh Universities Act, 1973, approved by the Assembly in July, adds three Sub-Sections to Section 49-A, thereby empowering the State government to appoint members of the teaching staff, Class 3 and 4 employees and transfer the members of the teaching staff or non-teaching employees from one university to another university. Besides, this will be binding on all universities, the amended Sub-Section say.
Digvijaya Singh had also tried to bring the State’s universities under Government control, though, in a different and subtle way. The Amendment he had got the Assembly to pass aimed at transferring the powers of the Governor (in his capacity as Chancellor) to the State Government simply by substituting the word “Chancellor” with the “State Government”. The Sections of the Act sought to be amended were 6,10,12,13,14,15,20,24,34,48 and 52.
The effect of the amendment would that the power of the universities to create new posts of teaching were subjected to the prior approval of the State Government. Similarly, the universities would no more be able to appoint, for a specified period, to the teaching posts those who were working in other universities or institutions except with the prior approval of the State government. The State Government would, under the amended law, have the power to order an inquiry on its own into the buildings, laboratories, museums, workshops, or into the matters relating to teaching, examinations or finances of the universities — this power vested in the Chancellor.
The Governor then was Dr Bhai Mahavir, a founder-member of the Jana Sangh and one of the few upright Governors the State has had. He knew that the Governor could not refuse his assent to the Bill nor could he withhold it indefinitely but he can definitely seek certain clarifications. He devised his own method to stop this encroachment on the autonomy of the universities.
After he received the Bill for his assent, he sent it back to the Government with some queries. At the same time, he sent copies of the Bill to some eminent persons to convey to them what the Madhya Pradesh government was doing. It was apparently the protest letters received by Digvijaya Singh that dampened his zeal. His government did not pursue it.
Perhaps the harshest comment came from Justice R S Sarkaria, former judge of the Supreme Court and also chairman of the former Commission on Centre-State Relations. Calling the bill “a retrograde step”, Justice Sarkaria wrote to the Chief Minister that the universities in the states are “autonomous, statutory bodies which, as a rule, should be kept free from political influence”.
Justice Sarkaria’s communication further said: “it is well settled that the Governor’s functions while acting as Chancellor of a University do not fall within the purview of Article 163(1) of the Constitution. In other words, while discharging his functions as Chancellor of the University, he is not bound to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of his Council of Ministers”.
Governor as Chancellor
Justice Sarkaria said that the role of the Governor as Chancellor of a university was considered by the Commission on Centre-State Relations. He then quoted the relevant para from the Commission’ Report (rendered in 1987): “In relation to the exercise of executive power of a State, the word ‘Governor’ can normally be equated with the State Government. However, the office of Chancellor, even though held by the Governor under a statute in an ex-officio capacity, cannot be so equated. The former, being an officer of the University, is not obliged to seek the advice of the State Government in the matter of exercise of his functions as the appointment of Vice-Chancellor”.
The others who sent protest letters to Digvijaya Singh on this issue included Justices V R Krishna Iyer, former Judge of the Supreme Court, Soubhagyamal Jain, former Judge of Rajasthan High Court, D V Sehgal and Jeetendra Veer Gupta, former Judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and N C Kocchhar, former Judge of Delhi High Court.
Now all that has been nullified by Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government with one stroke. Wonder if Digvijaya Singh thanked him for achieving what he wanted but could not because of a Governor appointed by the BJP-led NDA government.