The Tamil Nadu Assembly today adopted a Bill that will enable the state government to take over the Governor's power to appoint vice-chancellors to universities.
The legislation to amend the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws was introduced on a day Governor R N Ravi is hosting a two-day conference of vice-chancellors of state, central and private universities in Ooty.
Arguing the need to implement this legislation, Chief Minister MK Stalin said the state government's lack of power to appoint vice-chancellors impacts higher education. He also drew a comparison with Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Opposition parties AIADMK and the BJP opposed the legislation.
Speaking on the legislation, Chief Minister Stalin said, "By convention, the Governor appoints vice-chancellors in consultation with the state government, but over the past four years, a new trend has emerged - of Governors acting as if it's their prerogative."
He added that this practice "disrespects the elected government" and is "against the philosophy of people's rule".
The Chief Minister said the current system leads to "confusion" in the administration of universities.
Mr Stalin also pointed to the report of a commission headed by former Chief Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi on centre-state relations - the 2010 report had recommended removal of the Governor from the post of chancellor of universities.
"Even in Prime Minister's (Narendra Modi) state Gujarat, the state government chooses one of the three candidates recommended by the search committee (formed by the state government) as vice-chancellor," Mr Stalin said.
The Chief Minister said the same system was followed in Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Incidentally, the coalition government in Maharashtra headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray initiated a similar move in December last year.
Owing to allegations of appointment of vice-chancellors in the past on political considerations and on the basis of who was the “highest bidder”, there is concern among academics that this Bill may lead to a deterioration in higher education standards.
In the past few years, there have been several instances in which the Tamil Nadu Governor has rejected the search committee's recommendations to the posts of university vice-chancellors.
The Bill, which is in tune with the DMK's push for more autonomy for the state, has to be forwarded by the Governor to the President for his assent to become a law.
At least 10 Bills passed by the Assembly, including the legislation for the state's exemption for the all-India medical entrance exam NEET, are pending with the Raj Bhavan.
Recently, the state government boycotted a tea invite by the Governor to protest the delay in sending the Bill to the President, calling it an affront to the House.