‘Ease of doing business’ refers to the regulatory environment in a country to set up and operate a business. Every year, the World Bank compares the business environment in 190 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Report. In its report released yesterday, India’s rank improved to 100 out of 190 countries in 2017, from its rank of 130 in the previous year., In this context, we explain the parameters on which each country is ranked, what has led to India’s improvement in rankings, and some recommendations made by committees to further improve the business environment in the country.
What parameters is a country ranked on?
The ease of doing business rankings are based on a country’s performance on 10 parameters such as enforcing contracts and starting a business. In India, these rankings are based on the business environment in Mumbai and Delhi. A lower rank indicates better performance on that parameter, whereas a higher rank indicates worse performance on the indicator. India’s ranking improved in six out of the 10 parameters over the previous year, while it remained the same or fell in the remaining four (see Table 1).
Note that these parameters are regulated by different agencies across the three tiers of government (i.e. central, state and municipal). For example, for starting a business, registration and other clearances are granted by central ministries such as Finance and Corporate Affairs. Electricity and water connections for a business are granted by the state electricity and water boards. The municipal corporations grant building permits and various other no objection certificates to businesses.
What has led to an improvement in India’s ease of doing business rankings?
According to the 2017 report, India introduced changes in some of these parameters, which helped in improving its ranking.1 Some of these changes include:
What are some of the other recommendations to improve the business environment in India?
Over the last few years various committees, such as an Expert Committee constituted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Standing Committee of Commerce, have studied the the regulatory requirements for starting a business in India and the made recommendations on the ease of doing business.,, Some of the issues and recommendations made by these committees are discussed below.
Starting a business: The Standing Committee observed that regulations and procedures for starting a business are time-consuming.8 The Committee observed that as a consequence, a large number of start-ups are moving out of India and setting base in countries like Singapore where such procedures are easier. It emphasised on the need to streamline regulations to give businesses in India a boost. Note that the government announced the ‘Start-up India Action Plan in January 2016. The 19-point plan identified steps to simplify the process for registering and operating start-ups. It also proposed to grant tax exemptions to these businesses.
The Committee had suggested that the procedures and time period for registration of companies should be reduced. In addition, a unique business ID should be created to integrate all information related to a debtor. This ID should be used as sole reference for the business.
Acquiring land, registering property: Under the current legal framework there are delays in acquiring land and getting necessary permissions to use it. These delays are on account of multiple reasons including the availability of suitable land and disputes related to land titles. It has been noted that land titles in India are unclear due to various reasons including legacy of the zamindari system, gaps in the legal framework and poor administration of land records.
The Standing Committee observed that the process of updating and digitising land records has been going on for three decades. It recommended that this process should be completed at the earliest. The digitised records would assist in removing ambiguity in land titles and help in its smooth transfer. It also suggested that land ownership may be ascertained by integrating space technology and identification documents such as Aadhaar. Note that as of September 2017, land records had been linked with Aadhaar in 4% of the villages across the country.
Several states have taken steps to improve regulations related to land and transfer of property.8 These steps include integration of land records and land registration by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, and the passage of a law to certify land titles in urban areas by Rajasthan. The Committee also recommended creating a single window for registration of property, to reduce delays.8
Construction permits: In India, obtaining construction permits involves multiple procedures and is time consuming. The Standing Committee had observed that it took 33 procedures (such as getting no objection certificates from individual departments) over 192 days to obtain a construction permit in India.8 On the other hand, obtaining a similar permit in Singapore involved 10 procedures and took 26 days.
Taxation: The Standing Committee had noted that the tax administration in India was complex, and arbitration proceedings were time-consuming. It observed that the controversies on the Minimum Alternate Tax on capital gains and the tax disputes with companies like Vodafone and Shell had harmed India’s image on taxation matters. Such policy uncertainty and tax disputes have made foreign companies hesitant to do business in India.8
The Committee observed that for ‘Make in India’ to succeed, there is a need for a fair, judicious and stable tax administration in the country. Further, it suggested that to reduce harassment of tax payers, an electronic tax administration system should be created.8 Such a system would reduce human interface during dispute resolution. Note that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced across the country from July 1, 2017. The GST framework allows for electronic filling of tax returns, among other measures.
Enforcing contracts: Enforcing contracts requires the involvement of the judicial system. The time taken to enforce contracts in India is long. For instance, the Standing Committee noted that it took close to four years in India for enforcing contracts. On the other hand, it took less than six months for contract enforcement in Singapore. This may be due to various reasons including complex litigation procedures, confusion related to jurisdiction of courts and high existing pendency of cases.8
The Standing Committee recommended that an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and fast track courts should be set up to expedite disposal of contract enforcement cases. It suggested that efforts should be made to limit adjournments to exceptional circumstances only. It also recommended that certified practitioners should be created, to assist dispute resolution.8
 ‘Doing Business 2018’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB2018-Full-Report.pdf.
 ‘Doing Business 2017’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB17-Full-Report.pdf.
 Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-insolvency-and-bankruptcy-bill-2015-4100/.
 G.S.R. 436 (E), G.S.R. 437 (E) and G.S.R. 438 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment, May 4, 2017, http://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/Notifications%20for%20amendment%20under%20EPF%2C%20EPS%20and%20EDLI%20Schemes%20for%20e-Payment_0.pdf.
 Finance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-finance-bill-2017-4681/; Memorandum explaining the provisions of the Finance Bill, 2017, http://unionbudget.nic.in/ub2017-18/memo/memo.pdf.
 National Judicial Data Grid, http://njdg.ecourts.gov.in/njdg_public/index.php.
 Report of the Expert Committee on Prior Permissions and Regulatory Mechanism, Department of Industrial Policy Promotion, February 27, 2016.
 ‘Ease of Doing Business’, 122nd Report of the Department Related Standing Committee on Commerce, December 21, 2015, http://220.127.116.11/newcommittee/reports/EnglishCommittees/Committee%20on%20Commerce/122.pdf.
 Ease of Doing Business: An Enterprise of Survey of Indian States, NITI Aayog, August 28, 2017, http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/EoDB_Single.pdf.
 Start Up India Action Plan, January 2016, http://www.startupindia.gov.in/pdffile.php?title=Startup%20India%20Action%20Plan&type=Action&q=Action%20Plan.pdf&content_type=Action&submenupoint=action.
 Land Records and Titles in India, September 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/analytical-reports/land-records-and-titles-in-india-4941/.
 The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-central-goods-and-services-tax-bill-2017-4697/.
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.