We wrote an FAQ on the Lok Pal Bill for Rediff. See http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-all-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-lokpal-bill/20110808.htm The full text is reproduced below. What is the purpose of the Lok Pal Bill? The Bill seeks to establish an institution that will inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries. It establishes the office of the Lok Pal for this purpose. What is the composition of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal shall consist of a Chairperson and up to eight members. The Chairperson, and at least half of the members have to be current or former judges of the Supreme Court or Chief Justices of High Courts. The other members will have at least 25 years experience in matters related to anti-corruption policy, vigilance, public administration, finance, law and management. Who selects the Lok Pal? The Selection Committee consists of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in each House of Parliament, a Union Cabinet Minister, a sitting Supreme Court Judge, a sitting High Court Chief Justice, an eminent jurist, a person of eminence in public life. The two judges on this Committee will be nominated by the Chief Justice of India. Who comes under the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal? There are seven categories of persons under the Lok Pal: (a) Prime Minister after demitting office; (b) current and former Ministers; (c) current and former MPs (d) all Group A officers of the central government; (e) all Group A equivalent officers or PSUs and other government bodies; (f) directors and officers of NGOs which receive government financing; (g) directors and officers of NGOs which receive funds from the public, and have annual income above a level to be notified by the government. The speech and vote of MPs in Parliament are exempt from the purview of the Lok Pal. What are the major powers of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal has two major wings: investigation wing and prosecution wing. The Lok Pal can ask the investigation wing to conduct preliminary investigation of any offence alleged to be committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It can then conduct an inquiry. If the inquiry concludes that an offence was committed, the Lok Pal can recommend disciplinary action. It can also file a case in the Special Court. Does the Lok Pal need any prior sanction to initiate any action? No. The Bill states that the Lok Pal does not need prior sanction to inquire into an offence, or to initiate prosecution in the special court. What are special courts under this Bill? The central government is required to constitute special courts to hear and decide cases under this Bill. The Lok Pal shall recommend the number of such courts. What are the various time limits for conducting inquiry and trial? All preliminary investigation or inquiry must be completed within 30 days of the complaints (and can be extended for a further three months, with written reasons). The inquiry is to be completed within six months (extendable by six months). The trial is to be completed within one year of filing the case. This time may be extended by three months (and in further periods of three months each time) with written reasons, but the total time should not exceed two years. How can the Lok Pal be removed from office? The President may make a reference to the Supreme Court, (a) either on his own, or (b) if 100 MPs sign a petition, or (c) if a citizen makes a petition and the President is satisfied that it should be referred. If the Supreme Court, after an inquiry, finds the charge of misbehaviour was valid against the Chairperson or a Member and recommends removal, he shall be removed by the President. What are the provisions for the expenses of the Lok Pal? The Bill provides that all expenses will be charged, i.e., the amount will be provided without requiring a vote in Parliament. The Bill estimates recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crore per annum, and a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 50 crore. It also estimates a further Rs 400 crore for a building. What are the major differences from the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Team-Anna? There are several differences. The composition of the Lok Pal and the selection process are different; the Jan Lok Pal draft included a search committee with civil society members to shortlist the eligible members of the Lok Pal. The Lok Pal had jurisdiction over the PM, the judiciary and all public servants (only Group A officers in the government Bill); it included the speech and vote of MPs in Parliament; it did not include NGOs. The Jan Lok Pal Bill provided that the investigation and prosecution wings of the CBI shall report to the Lok Pal for corruption cases. It also had penalties ranging from six months to life imprisonment (under the government Bill, the maximum imprisonment is derived from the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and is 7 years).
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.