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The Law Ministry has disapproved of a proposal made by the HRD Ministry to move an amendment to IIT Act, empowering the Centre to establish new institutes without seeking Parliament’s approval every time.
The HRD Ministry had recently circulated a note seeking the Cabinet’s sanction for introducing a clause in the law by which the government could set up a new IIT by just adding its name under the proposed ‘Schedule 2’, instead of amending the Act. As per current provisions, the Centre does not need the Parliament’s nod to tweak the Schedule of an Act. It can be done with the Cabinet’s approval.
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The Law Ministry, in its comments to this Cabinet note, has objected to the idea on the ground that the power to establish an “institute of national importance” is the sole prerogative of Parliament and cannot be delegated to the Centre.
“It may not be desirable to provide power to central government to amend schedules to IIT Act to establish new IITs as the essential power to declare institutes as institutes of national importance (INI) needs to be exercised by Parliament and not by subordinate legislation,” said a source in the Law Ministry.
The INI status is conferred by an Act on an institution which “serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state”.
The Centre provides complete financial support to run such institutions. Apart from IITs, IIITs and NITs are also declared as institutes of national importance.
The HRD Ministry has justified the Cabinet note, arguing that it would reduce the legislative burden of Parliament and the government. “Our argument (in response to Law Ministry’s objection) is that we are not bypassing the House. Any change to the Schedule of an Act will have to eventually go to Parliament for final approval. So Parliament continues to be in the driving seat,” said an HRD official.
The PMO is learnt to have now asked the HRD Ministry to send the Cabinet note back to the Law Ministry for its concurrence. If the approval comes through this time, the HRD Ministry will subsequently move similar proposals to set up IIITs, NITs and IIMs, said sources.
This development assumes significance as the Centre has announced the setting up of seven new IITs (six in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu, Kerala and Karnataka and conversion of ISM-Dhanbad into an IIT) since it assumed power in 2014. Of these, IITs in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have started functioning and the remaining are expected to start functioning this year. The Centre hasn’t gone to Parliament yet to get these institutes the status of national importance.