West Bengal Governor C.V., Ananda Bose. File.

West Bengal Governor C.V., Ananda Bose. File.

A group of academicians under the banner of Educationist Forum, West Bengal on October 3 said that an Ordinance passed by the State government on having a search-cum-selection committee for full time Vice-Chancellors (V-Cs) is still alive. The academics urged the Chancellor to start the process of full time V-Cs on the basis of recommendations made by the Ordinance on search-cum-selection committee for these appointments.

The development comes two days after West Bengal Governor C. V. Ananda Bose appointed six interim V-Cs to State-run universities without any consultation with the State government.

After the Calcutta High Court directed for the inclusion of the University Grants Commission (UGC) nominee in the search cum selection committee, the West Bengal government on May 5, 2023, amended the universities laws to include a nominee of the UGC in the search/selection committees through an Ordinance in May 2023. The ordinance provides for a five-member search/selection committee.

Later on August 4, 2023, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which reconstitutes the search-cum-selection committee for the appointment of V-Cs of the Universities. The Bill has not been granted assent by the Governor so far.

Professor Omprakash Mishra, on behalf of the Educationist Forum pointed out that an Ordinance which has been introduced as per the provision of Article 213 of the Constitution and approved by the Legislative Assembly remains valid unless withdrawn or replaced.  Prof Mishra, former Vice-Chancellor of North Bengal University added that the assent of the Governor to the Bill is a requirement for ending the validity of the Ordinance. “In a case where the consent or otherwise of the Governor on this Bill is absent, the Ordinance continues to be the law on the specific subject matter,” he added.

“We cannot presume a legal vacuum on the subject. In a parliamentary democracy, we accept the will of the legislature (as reflected in the Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly, to be read with the UGC Regulations affected with the ratification by the Parliament, to be read with the repeated Orders of the Apex Court itself), “ a press statement on the basis of the Forum said.

The matter of the appointment of Vice-Chancellors is pending before the Supreme Court. On September 27, the Supreme Court directed to place before it “the existing provisions for appointment of members in the Search Committee and/or the new provisions which are proposed in the Bill awaiting assent of the Governor”.

The Forum also urged the Supreme Court to direct the Governor to give his assent to the Bill. The issue of the appointment of interim V-Cs has been a bone of contention between the West Bengal government and the Raj Bhawan for the past several months. The Governor has appointed interim Vice-Chancellors without any consultation with the State government. None of the 31 State run Universities have a full time Vice-Chancellor. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has threatened economic blockade if the Governor continues to appoint interim V-Cs.

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