Thiruvananthapuram:The Kerala government on Wednesday said the bill which seeks to amend the provisions related to appointment of Vice Chancellors (VCs) of universities in the state does not take away or dilute the powers of the Chancellor to do the same as claimed by the Congress-led UDF opposition.
State Higher Education Minister R Bindu contended so while introducing the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in the assembly.
Later in the day, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who also holds the position of Chancellor of Universities, told media persons that he "will not allow any kind of selection where the VCs can be used to appoint relatives of those in power".
"So you can be sure that whatever bill is passed, as long as I am here, I will not allow the erosion of the autonomy of the universities. I shall not allow VCs to be used for appointing close relatives. That is not going to happen," Khan said.
The introduction of the bill and later the minister's proposal to refer it to the subject committee was vigorously opposed by the UDF with one of its MLAs, T V Ibrahim, alleging that the intention behind the legislation was to appoint VCs who are under the control of the state government.
UDF MLA P C Vishnunadh claimed that the proposed amendment in the law was intended to take away or dilute the powers of the Chancellor to appoint VCs and as such was unconstitutional.
The allegations and claims of the opposition front were refuted by the Higher Education Minister who said there was nothing in the proposed amendment which was contrary to the UGC regulations or took away the Chancellor's powers.
In view of her submissions, Speaker M B Rajesh ruled that the bill can be introduced in the House.
After the bill was introduced and discussions on whether it should be sent to the subject committee concluded, the Speaker ruled that the House has approved that it be sent to Subject Committee VI.
The minister, during the discussions, said that the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) say there should be a search-cum-selection committee of qualified individuals who are not associated with the varsity, where a VC is to be appointed, or colleges affiliated to it.
But the regulations do not state how many members should be there in the committee and who all they should be, except that one of them would represent the UGC, Bindu said.
The changes being made in the provisions regulating the appointments was that instead of a three-member committee it would be five, it would select by majority a list of three candidates for appointment and the Chancellor has to appoint one from the list as VC within 30 days of receiving it, she said.
Earlier, the three members of the committee were one representative each of the UGC, the state government and the University syndicate and the amendment proposes to include a representative of the Chancellor and the Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Council as members in it, Bindu told the House when she introduced the bill.
The committee would be constituted by the Chancellor who would also select the candidate to be appointed as VC and therefore, his powers have not been taken away or diluted, the minister added.
She said the government was working to bring about a paradigm shift in higher education so that children graduating from universities here can deal with any challenge thrown at them and urged that no one should undermine such efforts.
The opposition had also claimed that minority and marginalised groups were not represented in the top positions in the universities in the state, but the same was rejected by Bindu who pointed out various names belonging to minority groups who were in top posts of various varsities in Kerala.
On Tuesday, the Governor had said he will not sign any of the bills -- including the University Laws (Amendment) Bill -- if they were against the spirit of the Constitution.
Prior to that, he had said the bills would become laws only if he signs them.