Kerala University VC: Guv Khan ratchets up provocation, asks Senate to provide nominee

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan during a press conference on Sept 19, 2022. Photo: Rinku Raj Mattancheril/Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Governor Arif Muhammad Khan has not only made it clear that he would not give his assent to the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 but on Tuesday acted as if such a Bill has not even been passed in the Assembly.

In what is seen as a highly provocative move, the Governor has asked the Kerala University to immediately nominate the Senate member to the three-member search-cum-selection panel formed to select a new vice chancellor for Kerala university. The tenure of the incumbent, V P Mahadevan Pillai, will expire soon, on October 24.

Had the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in the Assembly on September 1, got the Governor's assent, the selection of the new Kerala University VC would have been governed by this new statute.

Since the Bill is still pending with the Governor, legal experts say the existing law would prevail. But the question is whether the Governor has the authority to indefinitely postpone his decision on a Bill passed by the Assembly.

As per the existing law, the search panel is a three-member body consisting of the nominees of the Chancellor, the University Grants Commission chairman and the University Senate. The Chancellor's and the UGC chairman's nominees have already been fixed but the Senate nominee has still not been announced.

Earlier, there was a move to nominate Planning Board vice-chairman V K Ramachandran as the Senate nominee but the decision was set aside. Despite the Governor's insistence, the Senate refused to name its nominee.

The delay was purposeful because by then it was clear the government would amend the University Laws to expand the composition of the search committee to give the government a decisive say in the appointment of vice-chancellors.

In its present form, it is felt that the Chancellor could sway the decision to his liking as, along with the nominee of the UGC chairman, he has the upper hand in the three-member body. In fact, till Governor Khan turned abrasive, the Chancellor's nominee was traditionally provided by the government. But this time, the Chancellor himself decided his nominee.

The University Laws (Amendment) Bill has increased the composition of the search-cum-selection from three to five. The two members added are affiliated to the state government: nominees of the state government and the vice chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council.

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