Following a pick-and-choose policy when it came to granting clearance to private bodies setting up universities, the Punjab government allowed some universities in the state to set up off-shore, off-campus and regional study centres, while barring others from doing so.
Setting up of such centres, incidentally, is not just violation of the orders of the Supreme Court and directions of the University Grants Commission but also of Punjab’s own private university policy, 2010.
While some state acts that led to the creation of some of these universities have provisions which make it possible for them to have such centres, many others don’t.
For reasons that suited the private bodies, these provisions were added to the draft bills which were submitted to the state education department to vet. In at least three cases, the legal cell of the government -- where these draft bills were sent for vetting -- allowed these provisions to be carried as such and the bill was passed accordingly.
In some other cases, however, the legal cell objected to the addition of clauses that facilitated the proposed university to open such centres. The legal cell cited the Supreme Court judgment and the Punjab government’s private university policy while removing these provisions from the draft bill of the proposed university. While this led to every university having a different act, the whole exercise was a blatantly pick-and-choose one where some universities had been manifestly favoured while others had been asked to follow all rules.
The matter seemed to have reached chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who on January 27, 2014, while handling the file for the creation of the Rayat and Bahra University ordered that the acts of all the universities should read the same and should not differ from one another in terms of clauses and provisions.
Shockingly, the education department turned the chief minister’s orders on its head. The next time, in case of the creation of the GNA University, when the legal cell suggested that the facilitating provisions added in the draft bills in violation of the Punjab private university policy be removed, the education department refused to do so saying since the CM had ordered that all acts should read the same, so whatever had gone in the earlier acts should be followed for the subsequent acts too.
The legal remembrancer’s note on the GNA University file reads: “Item 5 (xxvi) of section 5 of the proposed legislation (GNA University bill) appears to be against the policy of 2010 because the provisions to set up constituent colleges, institutions, off-campus centres, off-shore centres and zonal or regional centres, study centres learning centres, etc, are not required to be incorporated in the proposed legislation, the administrative department (education department) may consider this aspect of the matter.”
The department in its note on this objection stated: “It is submitted that earlier the legal remembrancer had raised a similar objection in the case of the Rayat and Bahra University as well. It is hereby clarified that in the acts/bills of the earlier set up universities (Chandigarh University, Adesh University, DAV University and Desh Bhagat University) the legal remembrancer had allowed this provision to be included. Moreover, the chief minister had on the Rayat and Bahra University file noted that the acts of all the universities should be uniform.
In compliance of the chief minister’s orders, the proposed GNA University Bill should have the same provisions as those established earlier. If this provision is removed following the LR’s advice, it would amount to defiance of the CM’s orders. Also, the earlier provision was added on LR’s advice only.” Clarity on the matter finally came when the cabinet in its July 8, 2014 meeting got the facilitating provision deleted from the GNA University Bill.