(Authored by Anil Nair) The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly recently passed the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation and Development) Bill. This is the first such Bill to be passed by any state, which sets up a housing regulator to regulate property transactions. The Bill seeks to set up a Housing Regulatory Authority to provide for relief to flat purchasers against sundry abuses, malpractices and difficulties related to the construction, sale, management and transfer of flats. According to news reports, the government felt that existing laws were not effective in protecting the interests of the flat purchasers and allowed the promoters to avoid statutory obligations imposed on them. The Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulation of the promotion of construction, sale, management and transfer) Act, 1963 did not provide for an effective implementing arm for its various statutory provisions, as the buyers could only approach consumer forum or civil court for acts of omission or commission regarding its provisions. The current Bill passed by the Maharashtra Assembly proposes to repeal the 1963 Act. As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, the Regulatory Authority will strive to encourage growth and promotion of a healthy, transparent, efficient and competitive real estate market. The Bill specifies several conditions to be fulfilled by the developer to further transparency and fairness. All projects proposing to develop more than four flats or of land area exceeding 250 square meters have to submit and update details of the project on the website of the Housing Regulatory Authority. Developers would be required to disclose detailed information regarding the project including:
Failure to give possession of the flat on the agreed date would require repayment of the full amount paid by the buyer with interest. The Authority would also be empowered to penalise the developer up to an amount of one crore rupees for non-compliance with provisions in the Bill. Among other initiatives to assist the real estate industry, the Housing Regulatory Authority would promote rating of projects and of promoters, by the association of promoters, to improve the confidence level of investors and consumers through self-regulation. The full text of the Bill is available on the Government of Maharashtra website.
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.