Government owned Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) raised the price of petrol by Rs 6.28 per litre on May 23, 2012. After the inclusion of local taxes, this price hike amounts to an increase of Rs 7.54 per litre in Delhi. India met 76 per cent of its total petroleum requirement in 2011-12 through imports. Petrol prices have officially been decontrolled since June 2010. However, it has been argued by experts that prices of petroleum products have not been increased sufficiently in order to pass on cost increases to consumers. The inability to pass on international crude prices to consumers has affected OMCs more in recent months due to the depreciating rupee, which has further increased their losses. The total under recoveries faced by OMCs for diesel, PDS kerosene and domestic LPG for 2011-12 stands at Rs 138,541 crore. It was recently announced that the OMCs will receive Rs 38,500 crore from the Ministry of Finance to partially compensate for the high under recoveries. The prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene, which are responsible for the large under recoveries, are unchanged. Experts suggest that the price hike would have a limited impact on inflation, since petrol has a weightage of around 1 per cent on the Wholesale Price Index, whereas diesel has a weightage of around 4.7 per cent. The petrol price hike is unlikely to have an impact on the fiscal deficit, since petrol prices are technically deregulated. Reports suggest that a panel of ministers is due to meet on Friday to discuss diesel, kerosene and LPG prices. In a 2010 report, the Expert Group on "A Viable and Sustainable System of Pricing of Petroleum Products" (Kelkar Committee) observed that given India’s dependence on imports and rising oil prices, domestic prices of petroleum products must match international prices. It stated that price controls on diesel and petroleum in particular had resulted in major imbalances in consumption patterns across the country. This had also led to the exit of private sector oil marketing companies from the market, and affected domestic competition. Its recommendations included the following:
Reports suggest that a partial rollback of petrol prices might be considered soon.
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.