The Maharashtra Legislative Council on Tuesday passed the Maharashtra Public University Act, 2016 (Third Amendment) Bill which gives more powers to the Higher and Technical Education Minister with regard to the state-run varsities.
Opposition BJP claimed that it undermines the Governor’s powers and will lead to more political interference in the running of universities.
So what does the Bill say?
As per the bill, “There shall be a board of equal opportunity in each University which shall be responsible to plan, monitor, guide and coordinate various development and welfare programs, schemes, regulations and policies in regard to the welfare, development and social protection of teachers, non-teaching employees and students belonging to various categories of weaker section of the society, minorities, women, LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and others).”
The bill allows the minister to make recommendations to the governor who is the chancellor of the universities.
It also proposes the appointment of the Higher and Technical Education Minister as pro-chancellor of the universities.
The bill, tabled by Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant, was cleared by the upper house by voice vote following its passage in the Assembly earlier in the evening.
A statement from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) last week had said that the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016, will be amended and the state government will be given the powers to recommend to the governor the names for the vice chancellor's posts.
As per the amendment, vice-chancellors will not be appointed directly by the governor and he can only approve the names recommended by the state government.
This amendment is seen as a move by the Uddhav Thackeray-led government to gradually clip the powers of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari after his refusal to approve the appointment of 12 MLCs despite several reminders from the ruling MVA alliance.
Why are the MVA and BJP locking horns over it?
The opposition led by Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar staged a walk-out in protest.
“The autonomy of the governor is being compromised. This will make the minister more powerful and pave the way for more and more political interference in universities and their functioning,” he said.
Ironically, the Bill said to have been introduced to curtail the governor’s powers, will now go to state governor BS Koshyari for his approval.
BJP leader and former minister Sudhir Mungantiwar objected to provisions to include LGBTQIA community members. "How will one ascertain that a person is (part of ) LGBTQIA (community)? Who will certify this? Are you going to appoint a person who has homosexual relations? There are other points in the amendment bill that also need detailed discussion and hence this bill should be postponed till the next session," Mungantiwar said, as per India Today.
Replying to the objections, Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant said, "There are several judgements by the Supreme court about equal opportunities. By only pointing at this issue, the member (Mungantiwar) is trying to mislead...There is nothing new that we are doing, there are similar laws made in other parts of the country. We have brought the amendment bill only after discussing with experts."
With inputs from PTI