The 2010 Commonwealth Games may have ended on October 14th, but the controversy surrounding the organising of the games is far from over. In Parliament, the Opposition has called for a Joint-Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to be formed to investigate suspected financial irregularities in the organising of the Games. In a statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports M.S. Gill commented that “All irregularities will be examined and the guilty will not be spared”. In July 2010, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) found irregularities in 14 Games related construction projects. It has been reported that officials from the CVC now believe total misappropriation of Games Funds could be between Rs 5000 crore and Rs 8000 crore . So what is being done about it? Currently, six different government organisations are conducting independent inquiries into financial irregularities, corruption, and mismanagement of the Games: the High Level (Shunglu) Commission, CVC, CAG, CBI, Income Tax Department, and Enforcement Directorate (ED). With so many government organisations involved, it can be difficult to decipher the big picture. Here is a breakdown of what each organisation is doing: High Level Commission (Shunglu Commission): The Commission was appointed by the Prime Minister on October 15th. It is chaired by V.K. Shunglu, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who has been given the status equivalent to a Supreme Court Judge. The Commission has a broad mandate to investigate all matters regarding the Games, specifically:
A report from the Commission detailing its findings is expected by mid January. Central Vigilance Commission (CVC): The CVC first found financial irregularities in 14 Games projects in July 2010. Subsequently, it asked the CBI to register a corruption case against MCD officials in connection with a tender issued for a Games project. In total, the CVC has found irregularities in 38 games related projects, under the following departments and agencies:
The CVC has directed the above agencies to respond to queries regarding the irregularities and has directed the CBI to begin a Preliminary Inquiry into them . The CVC will report its findings to the Shunglu Commission. Income Tax Department: The I-T Department is investigating tenders and awards of contracts for Games related works, as well as tax evasion . It has conducted raids in offices of over 30 business firms and individuals . Enforcement Directorate (ED): The ED is proceeding against Organising Committee officials for violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for projects involving venue development and overlays contracts awarded by the Organising Committee. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): It has been reported that the CBI had received over 300 complaints of corruption in Games projects by August 2010. It is verifying these claims and investigating matters highlighted by the CVC. Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG): In August 2009, the CAG published a report entitled Preparedness for the XIX Commonwealth Games highlighting the lack of preparedness for the Games and its escalating cost. The CAG is conducting a detailed audit of the Games that is expected to be published in March 2011. Given that CAG reports are tabled in Parliament, the March 2011 report will be critical to the Parliamentary debate on the Games. Two members of the Organising Committee, the Joint Director and the Deputy Director General, were arrested by the CBI this past Monday. However, Given that the report of the Shunglu Commssion is due in January 2011, the CAG audit will follow two months later, and the current Opposition demand for a JPC remains unresolved, it may be some time before significant details are made public.
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On June 13, 2022, the West Bengal government passed a Bill to replace the Governor with the Chief Minister, as the Chancellor of 31 state public universities (such as Calcutta University, Jadavpur University). As per the All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20), state public universities provide higher education to almost 85% of all students enrolled in higher education in India. In this blog, we discuss the role of the Governor in state public universities.
What is the role of the Chancellor in public universities?
State public universities are established through laws passed by state legislatures. In most laws the Governor has been designated as the Chancellor of these universities. The Chancellor functions as the head of public universities, and appoints the Vice-Chancellor of the university. Further, the Chancellor can declare invalid, any university proceeding which is not as per existing laws. In some states (such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Jharkhand), the Chancellor has the power to conduct inspections in the university. The Chancellor also presides over the convocation of the university, and confirms proposals for conferring honorary degrees. This is different in Telangana, where the Chancellor is appointed by the state government.
The Chancellor presides over the meetings of various university bodies (such as the Court/Senate of the university). The Court/Senate decides on matters of general policy related to the development of the university, such as: (i) establishing new university departments, (ii) conferring and withdrawing degrees and titles, and (iii) instituting fellowships.
The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 designates the Chief Minister of West Bengal as the Chancellor of the 31 public universities in the state. Further, the Chief Minister (instead of the Governor) will be the head of these universities, and preside over the meetings of university bodies (such as Court/Senate).
Does the Governor have discretion in his capacity as Chancellor?
In 1997, the Supreme Court held that the Governor was not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, while discharging duties of a separate statutory office (such as the Chancellor).
The Sarkaria and Puunchi Commission also dealt with the role of the Governor in educational institutions. Both Commissions concurred that while discharging statutory functions, the Governor is not legally bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, it may be advantageous for the Governor to consult the concerned Minister. The Sarkaria Commission recommended that state legislatures should avoid conferring statutory powers on the Governor, which were not envisaged by the Constitution. The Puunchi Commission observed that the role of Governor as the Chancellor may expose the office to controversies or public criticism. Hence, the role of the Governor should be restricted to constitutional provisions only. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 also mentions this recommendation given by the Puunchi Commission.
Recently, some states have taken steps to reduce the oversight of the Governor in state public universities. In April 2022, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed two Bills, to transfer the power of appointing the Vice-Chancellor (in public universities) from the Governor, to the state government. As of June 8, 2022, these Bills have not received the Governor’s assent.
In 2021, Maharashtra amended the process to appoint the Vice Chancellor of state public universities. Prior to the amendment, a Search Committee forwarded a panel of at least five names to the Chancellor (who is the Governor). The Chancellor could then appoint one of the persons from the suggested panel as Vice-Chancellor, or ask for a fresh panel of names to be recommended. The 2021 amendment mandated the Search Committee to first forward the panel of names to the state government, which would recommend a panel of two names (from the original panel) to the Chancellor. The Chancellor must appoint one of the two names from the panel as Vice-Chancellor within thirty days. As per the amendment, the Chancellor has no option of asking for a fresh panel of names to be recommended.