Kerala CM vs Governor: On the lines of West Bengal, there is not only a situation of conflict between the governor and the state government in Kerala, but it is also increasing. Paving the way for a renewed confrontation with the Pinyari government of Kerala, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has gone ahead and nominated two members of the three-member selection committee to select a new vice-chancellor for the Kerala University. The move by the Raj Bhavan comes amid reports that the government is planning to bring an ordinance to curtail the role of the Chancellor (Governor) in the appointment of Vice Chancellors.
As per the Kerala Universities Act, a three-member committee will be constituted to make recommendations for the appointment of a new vice-chancellor. One nominee each from the Chancellor, University Grants Commission (UGC) and the University Senate. What happened is that in a notification issued by the Raj Bhavan on Friday, the Governor appointed Professor Debashish Chatterjee, Director, IIM-Kozhikode, as the Chancellor and Convener of the committee. Prof. Battu Satyanarayana, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Karnataka, is a UGC nominee.
This is the reason for the main controversy
The notification said that a third member of the committee – a nominee of the Kerala University Senate – would be included on receipt of information from the university. It said the committee should give its recommendations within three months. The tenure of the current Vice Chancellor VP Mahadevan Pillai is ending in October this year and the notification was issued to complete the selection process within the time limit. However, this is perhaps the first time that a governor has issued a notification appointing only two of the three members of the search committee.
The general practice is that a notification is issued appointing all the three nominees simultaneously. The Kerala University Senate is said to have met in July and reportedly selected Planning Board Deputy Chairman VK Ramachandran as its candidate on the selection committee. However, in view of the upcoming ordinance, the Senate decided not to convey its decision to the Raj Bhavan. The aim was probably to delay the selection process. However, the governor has taken the surprising step of appointing two nominees, bypassing the provision for the appointment of a Senate nominee, to ensure that the selection process is not stalled.
state government action
A whistleblower group in the higher education sector, the Vishwavidyalaya Bachao Abhiyan Samiti (SUCC), had alleged that the government was planning to bring an ordinance to remove the governor’s role in the appointment of the vice-chancellor. In a petition to the Governor, SUCC pointed out that the proposed ordinance aims to amend the University Acts. so as to empower the government to recommend the nominee of the Chancellor. The amendments would also ensure that the Chancellor can make appointments only from a panel presented by a majority of the members of the Selection Committee, if there is a difference of opinion among the members.