Following Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s decision to sack nine vice-chancellors, the state government is considering a legal option to remove the governor as chancellor of state universities. The government is looking at various options and is considering the bill passed by West Bengal in this regard.

Chancellors are responsible for appointing vice-chancellors and making other key administrative decisions. Earlier in June, the West Bengal cabinet had approved the chief minister as chancellor of the state universities. Earlier, the governor was appointed as the chancellor of the universities run by the state government.

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The law empowered Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to appoint 31 vice-chancellors of state universities in place of the governor. The West Bengal state government has passed a bill in the Assembly to amend the existing law. For the bill to be implemented, it had to receive the governor’s assent before becoming an act.

The system was first proposed in 2010 by the Panchi Commission, but it became heated last year due to tensions between the governor and Banerjee. Earlier, there were allegations that the state government was appointing vice-chancellors on its own, ignoring the chancellor (governor).

Similarly, the Tamil Nadu government also passed two bills in April, the Tamil Nadu University (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Tamil Nadu University (Amendment) Bill, 2022. It included provisions empowering the state government to appoint vice-chancellors in place of governors.

In 2021, the Government of Maharashtra passed the Maharashtra State University (Third Amendment) Bill to change the process of appointing vice-chancellors in state universities. In 2013, the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat state government stripped the governor of the chancellor’s power to appoint VCs. The bill received the assent of the state governor in 2015.

The Kerala government is likely to take a similar step amid the ongoing standoff between the government and the governor. The governor sent a message to the vice-chancellors of 11 universities. CPIM state secretary MV Govindan said that in many states the governor is not the chancellor of the universities. In Kerala it is because of state law and they are looking at all legal and constitutional options.

The Kerala Law Minister on Thursday said that under the current state law, the Governor is the Chancellor of Universities. All necessary will be prepared by the relevant ministry. We check the legality only if something is submitted by the relevant ministry.

The vice-chancellors of a total of nine Kerala universities have been asked to resign and 15 senate members have been sacked by the governor’s office. Governor Khan has appointed the Vice-Chancellors of nine universities namely Kerala University, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Research, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Sri Sankaracharya Sanskrit University, University of Calicut, Malayalam University Tunchat Ezhutachan, resign.

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