MK Stalin's big move to curbing Governor's power: A look at TN's Bill of appointing Vice-Chancellors!

In yet another whip against Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi amid the ongoing soaring relationship, Chief Minister MK Stalin has on Monday- April 25 captained a move that was apparently in the fashion of curbing the Governor's power. The Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a crucial bill which will take away one of the Governor's duties in the midst of the opposition from the BJP and the ADMK.

On Monday, the Tamil Nadu Assembly has adopted a Bill that will empower the state government to appoint  Vice-Chancellors to 13 universities in the state. As the Chancellor of these universities, the Governor would be appointing the Vice-Chancellors and through the Bill, the MK Stalin government has batted to change the status quo and take the power of making appointments. Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education K Ponmudy had tabled the Bill to amend the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws to allow the state government to appoint the Vice-Chancellors. 

After tabling the Bill, Ponmudy said that the duty of appointing the Vice-Chancellors for the varsities must be vested with the Chief Minister. While addressing the assembly, MK Stalin said that there were 13 state-run universities in Tamil Nadu and the state government, which has been making policy decisions, is not having the power to appoint the Vice-Chancellors, which is impacting the higher education. He noted that the Governor's practise of consulting with the government in making appointments has been changing in recent years. 

He said, "While it has been the practice that the Governor consults with the democratically elected government on appointing the Vice-Chancellors, that has been changing in recent times, especially in the past four years. The Governor has been acting in a way that he has a special power in appointing the Vice-Chancellors. This habit of not respecting the government, which is responsible for providing the higher education, can be seen." MK Stalin further quoted the act followed by the states of Gujarat, Telangana, and Karnataka in appointing the Vice-Chancellors. 

He said, "This is an issue concerning the rights of the state government, of the university educational rights, and of the rights of the government elected by the people." By urging the legislators to vote in favour of the Bill, MK Stalin stated that the Bill aligns with the Gujarat University Act, 1949, Telangana Universities Act, 1991, and Karnataka State Universities Act, 2000, which empower state governments to appoint university Vice-Chancellors as well. 

Arming the Bill, the Chief Minister has highlighted the recommendation made by the Justice Punchhi Commission in 2007 which said that the Governor should not be vested with the right to appoint Vice-Chancellors, which has not been provided by the Constitution. This committee was chaired by Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi and was formed to analyse the Union government and state relations. Following his speech, the Bill was adopted by the assembly with the majority of support from the DMK and its alliance. 

The PMK had also supported the Bill while the opposition ADMK and BJP had staged a walkout from the assembly by condemning the Bill. Reacting to the Bill, Tamil Nadu BJP President Annamalai said, "Don't mix politics in the Higher Education Department, which is functioning well. DMK thinks that it can appoint the people who support it as the Vice-Chancellors." 

It must be noted that the Bill has been adopted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the same day when the Governor of Tamil Nadu RN Ravi is taking part in a two-day conference of Vice-Chancellors of Tamil Nadu universities to discuss ideas and action plans for India's role in an emerging new world order and India to be a world leader by 2047. The conference is been hosted by the Raj Bhavan in Ooty and the Tamil Nadu government didn't send any representation to the conference.