There are indications that the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 is likely to be taken up for consideration and passing during the current Winter session of Parliament. The Bill was introduced on Aug 4, 2011 in the Lok Sabha after a prolonged agitation led by Anna Hazare (see PRS analysis of the Bill). It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (see PRS note on Committee Systems). The Committee submitted its report on December 9, 2011. The report includes 10 dissent notes from 17 MPs. (a) Kirti Azad, Bal Apte, D.B. Chandre Gowda, Harin Pathak, Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Madhusudan Yadav. (b) Ram Jethmalani (c) Ram Vilas Paswan (d) Shailendra Kumar (e) Prasanta Kumar Majumdar (f) Pinaki Misra (g) A. Sampath (h) S. Semmalai (i) Meenakshi Natrajan, P.T. Thomas, and Deepa Dasmunshi (j) Vijay Bahadur Singh Presently, the government and the Opposition are in the process of formulating their stands on various key issues such as inclusion of the Prime Minister, the lower bureaucracy and the role of the Central Investigation Bureau. We provide a broad overview of the views of the members of the Committee on various key issues. Unanimity on issues On some issues, there was unanimity among the Committee members:
Dissent on issues Certain members of the Committee dissented on specific issues. In Table 1, we list the issues and the reason for the dissent. Table 1: Recommendation of Standing Committee and dissent by individual MPs
|Issues||Standing Committee recommendations||Points of dissent||Dissenting MPs|
|Inclusion of Prime Minister||Committee left the decision to Parliament stating that there are pros and cons to each view.||- PM should be included. - PM should be brought under the Lok Pal with some exceptions for national security, foreign policy, atomic energy etc. - The decision to investigate or prosecute the PM should be taken by the Lok Pal with 3/4th majority.||- Prasanta Kumar Majumdar, A. Sampath. - Kirti Azad etc, Shailendra Kumar, Pinaki Misra.|
|Grievance redressal mechanism||Enact separate law for a grievance redressal mechanism.||Include in the Lok Pal Bill.||Kirti Azad etc, Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar.|
|Inclusion of bureaucracy||Include Group B officers in addition to Group A.||- Include all groups of govt employees. - Include Group ‘C’. - Do not include bureaucrats.||- Kirti Azad etc, A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc, Shailendra Kumar, Prasanta Kumar. Majumdar, Pinaki Misra, Vijay Bahadur Singh. - Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Lokayukta||Single, central law to deal with Lok Pal and state Lokayuktas to ensure uniformity in prosecution of public servants.||States should retain power to constitute Lokayuktas.||- S. Semmalai.|
|Private NGOs, media and corporate||Include all entities with specified level of govt control or which receive specified amount of public donations or foreign donations above Rs 10 lakh.||No private organsiations should be included.||- Kirti Azad etc., Ram Vilas Paswan.|
|Composition of search and selection committees||Selection Committee: In addition to PM and Speaker, it should include the Chief Justice of India, an eminent Indian unanimously nominated by the CAG, CEC and UPSC chairman and only Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha. Search Committee: Mandatory to constitute. Minimum 7 members with 50% members from SC/ST, OBC, minorities and women.||Selection Committee: PM, Minister, LoPs of both Houses, two judges and CVC. Search Committee: CJI, CAG, CEC, Cabinet Secretary, judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. Selection Committee: PM, LoP in the Lok Sabha, one judge of SC and one Chief Justice of a HC, CVC, CEC and CAG. Search Committee: 10 members out of which 5 should be from civil society and 5 should be retired Chief Justice, CVC, CAG and CEC. Half the members to be from SC/STs, OBCs, minorities or women.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Removal of Lok Pal||In addition to petitioning the President, a citizen should be allowed to approach the Supreme Court directly with a complaint. If admitted, it would be heard by a 5 judge bench. If President does not refer a citizen’s petition, he should give reasons.||Investigation should be conducted by an independent complaint authority. Heavy fines should be imposed in case of a false or frivolous complaint. Instead of the President, the Supreme Court should have power to suspend a member pending inquiry.||- Shailendra Kumar.|
|Role of CVC and CBI||CVC should investigate Group C and D employees. Instead of Lok Pal’s investigation wing, the CBI should investigate cases after inquiry by the Lok Pal. CBI to have autonomy over its investigation. Lok Pal shall exercise general supervision over CBI.||CBI should be under the control of the Lok Pal. The CBI Director should be appointed by the Lok Pal’s selection committee. The CVC should be under Lok Pal and the SVCs under the state Lokayuktas.||- Ram Jethmalani, Shailendra Kumar. - A. Sampath. - Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|False and frivolous complaints||Term of imprisonment should be maximum six months. Amount of fine should not exceed Rs 25,000. Specifically provide for complaints made in good faith in line with the Indian Penal Code.||The term of imprisonment should not exceed 30 days.||- Kirti Azad etc.|
|Article 311||Article 311 of the Constitution should be amended or replaced with a statute.||The procedure adopted by the disciplinary authority should conform to Article 311.||- Kirti Azad etc, Meenakshi Natrajan etc.|
|Finance||Lok Pal Bill states that all expenses of the Lok Pal shall be charged to the Consolidated Fund of India (no need for Lok Sabha clearance). The Committee did not make any recommendation with regard to finances of the Lok Pal.||Lok Pal’s expenses should be cleared by the Parliament. Lok Pal should present its budget directly to Parliament rather than through a ministry.||- Kirti Azad etc. - Shailendra Kumar.|
|Sources: The Lok Pal Bill, 2011; the Department Related Standing Committee Report on the Lok Pal Bill, 2011 and PRS.|
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.