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Kerala Cabinet proposes ordinance to strip Governor of Chancellor’s role

An official release from the CMO said the Cabinet decided to recommend to the Governor to promulgate an ordinance to appoint eminent academicians to the post of Chancellor.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan speaks to media personnel in Kochi, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. (PTI Photo)

Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday decided to bring in an ordinance to strip the Governor of university Chancellor’s role. In Kerala, Governor is, by virtue of his office, the chancellor of all universities in the state.

As the tussle between Arif Mohammed Khan and the state government escalated in recent months over the administration of universities, the ruling CPI(M) had last week decided to explore all options to rein in the incumbent Governor. The fight had reached a flashpoint after Khan sought the resignation of 11 V-Cs in the wake of a Supreme Court verdict which declared the appointment of the V-C of APJ Kalam Technogolical University as “illegal” and “void ab initio”.

An official release from the CMO said the Cabinet decided to recommend to the Governor to promulgate an ordinance to appoint eminent academicians to the post of Chancellor.

Reacting to the development, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said, “I will not be the judge of my own case. It involves me,” he said, indicating that the proposed ordinance would be referred to the President. “Their proposal cannot become a law. In order to become a law, it must be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. I am not going to sign anything without applying my mind. They (government) are not serious about it. They do it for publicity.’’

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“The ordinance is meant to amend the University Rules pertaining to the post of Chancellor of the universities in the state. The draft of the ordinance would remove the particular section from the University Rules, which has made the Governor as the ex-officio chancellor of the 14 universities in Kerala,” said the official release.

Explained

CPM’s strong message

Amid the state government’s tussle with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan over university matters, the Kerala Cabinet's decision to bring in an ordinance to distance Raj Bhavan from the higher education sector is a political one with far reaching consequences in the state’s political as well as academic arena. The CPM has sent a message to Khan that the party is determined to bridle him even as the party claims that the decision is part of the reforms in the higher education sector.

It said the cabinet decision to remove the Governor as the chancellor of the universities was taken after considering the recommendation of the M M Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations, which had stated that it would not be proper to appoint the Governor as the Chancellor considering his other constitutional obligations.

The release said that considering the importance given to the higher education sector, the state government has decided to appoint eminent persons, who uphold high academic values, as chancellors of universities to transform Kerala’s higher education institutions.

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After the cabinet meeting, Higher Education Minister Dr R Bindu told the media that the move is part of the reforms in the higher education sector. As the Governor has to sign the ordinance to be promulgated, the minister said: “The Governor has the constitutional obligation to sign the ordinance. We hope he will fulfil that obligation. Due to the recent developments in the universities, the state’s higher education sector is in crisis. We cannot allow things to go like this. The government has given top priority for enhancing the standards in the higher education sector.’’

A few months back, the state Assembly had passed a bill, Kerala University Laws (Amendment) Bill, which was aimed at giving an upper hand for the state government in the selection of the V-Cs. The composition of the search-selection committee was changed to take away the existing edge for the Governor in appointing V-Cs.

Congress legislator and Opposition leader V D Satheesan said the move is to make CPI(M) men as chancellors. “This is not the remedy for the mistakes done by the Chief Minister and the government. This would pave the way for backdoor entry of CPI(M) men as chancellors of the universities. Those with Communist background would be made the V-Cs. This would destroy the higher education sector in the state. CP(M) fears that the Governor would appoint Sangh Parivar men as V-Cs. Now, the Opposition has a similar fear that CPI(M) would appoint Communists as chancellors. We would oppose the move,’’ he said.

First published on: 09-11-2022 at 11:33 IST
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