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Sibal’s Bill provides for penal action against V-P,guvs,CJI

Technical institutes,varsities bill: A student can initiate action if he is charged fees in excess of what was declared at the time of admission

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Published: May 21, 2012 1:06:06 am

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal might have managed to get some Bills,particularly the Copyright Amendment Bill,2010,passed in the ongoing Budget Session,but the Opposition is not likely to support the government as far as his pending Bills are concerned.

Apart from the issue of many of the Bills not being in line with the federal structure,some are also likely to draw the ire of the Opposition and UPA constituents for being “draconian” and anti-constitutional.

Consider this: If the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions,Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill,2010 becomes a law,it would be open for anybody to initiate penal proceedings against the Vice-President,Governor of a state or even the Chief Justice of India. For,a key clause of the proposed Bill reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section(1),where any offence under this Act has been committed by an institution and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of,or is attributable to,any neglect on the part of any governor,chancellor,director,trustee,manager,secretary or other officer of such institution,such governor,chancellor,director,trustee,manager,secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

Simply put,under the proposed law,a student can initiate penal action against the Vice-President,Governor or the CJI,as a the case may be,if he is charged fees in excess of what was declared at the time of his admission. And,the maximum punishment under the proposed law: jail term for three years and/ or hefty fine!

The fact that Article 361 of the Constitution provides protection to the governors from penal action for acts done by them in exercise of their powers was ignored by experts finalising the Bill. While the Vice-President is the Chancellor of Panjab University,Chandigarh,the CJI is the Chancellor of many law universities.

Some parties say that the Bill,if it becomes a law,would allow FDI in education,which is not acceptable to key UPA allies.

Here is what the report of the standing committee says about the lack of adequate consultation by the ministry while finalising the Bill: “The committee is not happy with the level of consultations undertaken by the (HRD) Department with respect to the Bill. There has been lack of a thorough consultative process while drafting such a historic piece of legislation having a wide-ranging impact on the functioning of higher educational institutions spread across the country.”

The opposition and some UPA allies are opposed to four of the pending Bills moved by Sibal on the issue of their being in conflict with the federal structure of the country. Sources said opposition parties and some

UPA allies are opposed to clauses of the Higher Education and Research Bill,2011,which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 28,2011,the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill,2010 (introduced on May 3,2010). In its report on this Bill of August 12,2011,the Parliamentary panel again pointed to the lack of adequate consultation with various stakeholders,including state governments.

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