State education minister Vinod Tawde accepted the latest draft of Maharashtra Public Universities Act on Wednesday. The act — prepared by a 21-member committee that included representatives from all major political parties — will replace the current Maharashtra Universities Act.
It provides the legal framework for the functioning of around 10 non-agricultural public universities of the state.
The move marks the completion of a major step in implementing the new law, the passage of which was deferred on multiple occasions last year. It has also paved the way for the smooth passage of the bill by the state legislature in its upcoming winter session in Nagpur.
"The minister approved the draft of the bill at a meeting of the committee on Wednesday," said an official from the state's higher and technical education department. Tawde heads the committee.
Some of the act’s points of contention include the proportion of elected representatives in statutory bodies such as senate, academic council and management council as well as student elections and fee regulation. “The government considered our proposals. Most of the panel members are in consensus over various provisions of the act,” said Rajesh Tope, NCP leader and former minister for higher and technical education, who was part of the committee.
The universities bill was first introduced in the state assembly on the last day of winter session last November. However, there was no time left to discuss it. The government planned to enact the bill through an ordinance, but instead, reintroduced it in the assembly in March, with some changes.
On the Opposition’s insistence, the government formed a committee consisting of leaders from all major political parties to study and recommend changes in the bill. With the committee meeting only thrice in past three months, the bill couldn’t be introduced in the monsoon session, which ended earlier this month.
During this period, the state forbade public universities from conducting elections for its statutory bodies. As a result, the universities, including University of Mumbai (MU) have been functioning with truncated bodies.
The varsity authorities claim that the delay in the passage of the new law, combined with the decision to postpone elections, has stagnated MU. In the past year, everything from non-appointment of the controller of examination to delay in approving research proposals to non-functioning of crucial bodies such as students grievance redressal cell and woman development cell to delay in granting autonomy to colleges has been blamed on the absence of the new act.