R Bindu in Assembly | Screengrab
Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Assembly on Thursday passed the University Laws (Amendment) Bill 2022, which would give an upper hand to the state government in appointing vice-chancellors (VC) to universities.
The bill, which came amid a standoff between the ruling LDF and Governor Arif Mohamed Khan over issues including the recent appointment of Kannur University VC, was slammed by the opposition UDF as an attempt by the Left government to appoint its "puppets" as vice-chancellors. The Congress-led bloc boycotted the House proceedings over the matter.
The Bill, which envisages to bring some major amendments to the original Act, will change the number of members and the structure of the search-cum-selection committee that picks the VC candidates, virtually limiting the upper hand of the Governor and the union government in their appointment.
The maximum age limit of a person to be appointed as vice chancellor has been raised to 65 from 60 years as per the new bill.
Before announcing their boycott, the Congress-led opposition engaged in a heated war of words with Higher Education Minister R Bindu and other ruling members over various aspects of the proposed Bill.
Bindu claimed that the opposition and media's propaganda that the Bill would strip the powers of the Governor was wrong.
She also said the Higher Education Council vice chairman would not be a member of the search committee as pointed out by the opposition but only his nominee.
LDF legislator K T Jaleel claimed there has been an attempt by the RSS and the BJP-led union government to appoint persons of their choice in the state universities and with the expansion of the search committee, such interventions can be prevented.
To this, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala quipped that the ruling front was also trying to do the same like BJP through the Bill- to appoint persons of their choice in the key posts.
Charging that the Bill would destroy the autonomy of universities and adversely impact its standards, he also said the Left government's policy was to change even the prevailing law which stands against their interests.
"This is unethical...you are setting a very bad precedent. How is the teacher and student community and the university itself going to benefit through this," the senior leader asked.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, V D Satheesan said through the Bill, that the government's attempt was to bring the universities under its control.
"The Bill is an insult to the higher education sector of the state. The government is trying to appoint their puppets as VCs," he further charged and led the opposition front MLAs out of the House.
After putting the bill for voting, Speaker M B Rajesh declared it as passed in the absence of opposition legislators.