Now, Rajasthan govt plans a Bill to take chancellor role from Governor

The Rajasthan government is considering bringing in legislation to give the Chief Minister the power to appoint chancellors for the 28 state-funded universities. As per the Bill, the Governor, who is at present the Chancellor, will become the Visitor of these universities.

If the new legislation — titled Rajasthan State Funded Universities Act – comes into effect, the Governor will also have no say in the selection process of vice-chancellors of state-funded universities.

The move follows several instances of a stand-off between the government and the office of Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra. The draft has been prepared after studying similar legislations planned by other non-BJP-ruled states or in place there, such as Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, as well as UGC regulations.

The draft, as well as presentations related to the Act, talk about how this ‘umbrella Act’ will help in ‘protecting universities from political interference’ as well as ‘ensuring implementation of government policies and enhancing accountability of officers to the authorities of the universities and state government and ease in policy implementation and governance’.

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A government presentation related to the draft Bill says it will help avoid conflict of interest with the Governor’s office. “Though Higher Education is the responsibility of the State being in Joint list, it has less direct role in issuing directives to the Universities,” says the presentation.

“The Governor of Rajasthan shall be the Visitor of the University. The Visitor when present will preside over the Convocation of the University. The Visitor shall have other powers as prescribed by the Statutes of the University. The Chief Minister of Government of Rajasthan shall appoint a Chancellor for the University. The tenure of the Chancellor will be Five years or till the appointment of the next Chancellor by the Chief Minister whichever is earlier,” says the draft.

It adds that the Chancellor so appointed shall be an eminent educationist or scholar of repute over the age of 65 and not exceeding the age of 75. No person shall be appointed the Chancellor of more than three universities.

The Chancellor will in turn appoint V-Cs in concurrence with the state government, on the recommendations of a Selection Committee consisting of a person nominated by the university’s board of management, a person nominated by the UGC chairman, a person nominated by the Chancellor and a person nominated by the state government.

This will effectively leave the Governor no say over the selection of a V-C. At present, the Governor, who is also the Chancellor for state-funded universities, has a nominee in the V-C selection committee.

A top official of the State Higher Education Department said deliberations are on and the Bill might be presented before the Cabinet for approval soon.

Independent MLA from Sirohi Sanyam Lodha, who is also an advisor of CM Ashok Gehlot, welcomed the move. “I have spoken about this in the House as well. I also gave the example of West Bengal. Arajkta (anarchy) has started, people who are not eligible are becoming vice-chancellors and are later raided by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The new Bill will bring uniformity,” Lodha said.

Earlier this year, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra cancelled two meetings of the Board of Management and advisory committee of the Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication (HJU), setting off a political controversy. As university officials alleged interference by the Raj Bhavan, Lodha – who is a member of the university’s board — questioned Mishra’s move.

The Raj Bhavan said the step was taken to ensure that no policy decision was taken towards the end of the tenure of then V-C Om Thanvi.

HJU is one of the universities among the 28 state-funded universities covered by the draft Bill.

The Rajasthan government and Governor also differed over an amendment Act passed in the Assembly in March, again related to HJU, which enabled a professional from any branch of journalism and mass communication with minimum of 20 years of experience in private or public sector to be eligible for the post of V-C.

The Raj Bhavan sent back the amendment Bill to the government for reconsideration, citing UGC regulations saying a V-C should have been a professor for 10 years.

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