In what appears to be a case of conflict of interest, at least five members of the parliamentary standing committee that criticised the Education Tribunals Bill have been found to have links with private educational institutes.
They are: Prakash Javadekar (BJP), N. Balaganga (AIADMK), Deepinder Hooda (Congress), Suresh Chanabasappa Angadi (BJP) and Vinay Kumar Pandey (Congress).
The Rajya Sabha committee on ethics clearly states if a member has any interest in a matter, he shall declare the nature of such interest. But none of these five MPs declared their association with private colleges, or offered to recuse themselves.
"If MPs associated with private educational chains are on the panel examining such a bill, or participate in debates relating to it, it is a conflict of interest,” former Supreme Court judge PB Sawant said.
The Bill passed by the Lok Sabha, but blocked in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, aims to set up dedicated tribunals for speedy settlement of disputes related to higher education.
Two other legislations, both tightening the screws on private institutes, can be taken up only after the Tribunals Bill is enacted.
One legislation prescribes severe penalty for institutions that cheat students, and the other makes accreditation mandatory.
BJP leader Prakash Javadekar even opposed the bill during the debate in the Rajya Sabha. Interestingly, his wife Prachee Javadekar is shown — in documents submitted to the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) in April — as director of a private management institution in Pune, as well as on the boards of other privateinstitutions run by a Pune chain.
Javadekar did not respond to calls seeking his reaction.
Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal declined to comment. “I will try to convince MPs again (to pass the Bill) during the winter session," Sibal said.
Apart from those on the house committee, most other MPs who also opposed the Bill in the Rajya Sabha come from states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — where private institutions have thrived over the last 15 years.
These states account for 82 of India's 130 deemed universities, most of which are privately run.
NCP MP Janardhan Waghmare, also a member of the standing committee, confirmed he was not made aware of his Parliament panel colleagues' associations with private educational institutions. "If there are such cases, they need to be reviewed," he said.