Bengal governor seeks clarifications on bill to make CM Mamata chancellor of universities

Updated on Jul 04, 2022 02:35 AM IST
Assembly officials said the governor has pointed out in his note that the documents received by him were incomplete and did not include the discussions that took place in the House before the passing of the bill.
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar. (PTI Photo)
West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar. (PTI Photo)
By, Kolkata

West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has sought some clarifications from the state government on a bill that seeks to make the chief minister the chancellor of all 31 state-aided universities replacing the governor.

The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was passed by the state’s legislative assembly on June 13 and sent to Raj Bhawan for the mandatory governor’s assent.

Assembly officials said the governor has pointed out in his note that the documents received by him were incomplete and did not include the discussions that took place in the House before the passing of the bill.

“The documents will be updated with records of the discussions,” one of the officials said, requesting anonymity.

The issue has opened a new chapter in the acrimonious relationship between Raj Bhawan and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).

While some leaders of the ruling party claimed that the bill was returned by the governor, the latter refuted the same.

“No bills pending consideration as returned to Assembly on ground of incompleteness of compliance as apparent from Assembly communication: ‘The complete official report of the debates of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly on the Bill will be forwarded as soon as it is ready’,” Dhankhar tweeted on Saturday, quoting a line from the reply he received from the assembly.

In another tweet, he added: “It was inappropriate for the assembly secretariat to send incomplete input to the governor as regards the bills for his consideration under Article 200 of the Constitution of India. Several mandated compliances have to (be) effected to enable consideration of the bill.”

Soon after the bill was passed by the assembly, Dhankhar had raised questions about it terming it a move to “divert attention from the irregularities in school teacher recruitment” that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing on orders from the Calcutta high court.

On June 30, Dhankhar appointed the new vice chancellor of Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University (RBU).

Appointing Mahua Mukherjee, a professor at RBU’s dance department, as the institution’s new vice chancellor, Dhankhar signed the appointment order as the RBU chancellor.

On Saturday, he reacted to comments TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh, who said the governor overstepped his authority in making Mukherjee’s appointment.

On Saturday, Dhankhar tweeted that Mukherjee was one of the three candidates shortlisted by the state-appointed search committee in accordance with law. The other two candidates were Debasish Bandopadhyay, a professor of English at RBU, and Sanjib Kumar Dutta, a mathematics professor at Kalyani University.

Days before the West Bengal assembly passed the Bill on June 13, Dhankhar had hinted that he might send it back to the House or refer it to the Centre.

Education is part the Concurrent List of Constitution’s Seventh Schedule, which effectively means both the Union and the state have the power to bring legislation on the subject. In case of a conflict, the Centre’s law will prevail.

The Bengal government’s bill refers to the report of the Punchhi Commission, which was set up by the Centre under the chairmanship of former chief justice of India Madan Mohan Punchhi, in 2007 to look into changing scenarios and new issues relating to Centre-state relations.

While introducing the bill, state’s education minister Bratya Basu said the government wanted universities to run smoothly and that there was no harm in changing old rules.

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