In India, children between the age group of 6 and 14 years have the fundamental right to free and compulsory education. This right is implemented through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act). The Act is applicable to all categories of schools (government and private). According to recent media reports (see here and here), many schools (including government schools) are flouting norms laid down in the RTE Act. Unaided schools have criticised state government over norms related to religious and linguistic status of minority schools (see here and here). The government has also faced flak over unclear norms on neighbourhood schools and reimbursement of money to private schools (see here, here and here). Most Acts ‘delegate’ the power to make rules and regulations for operationalising the law to the executive (Ministry). We provide an overview of the Rules notified by the state governments. The central government notified the RTE Rules 2010 on April 9, 2010, which are applicable to all schools under the central government, and in the five Union Territories without legislatures. Most of the states have notified similar Rules with a few variations. The Rules define the limits of a neighbourhood and make it mandatory for the local authority to maintain list of children within its jurisdiction. They also prescribe the composition of the School Management Committee to be formed in government schools. Private schools shall reserve 25% of the seats for disadvantaged children. These schools shall be reimbursed for either their tuition charge or the per-student expenditure in government schools, whichever is lower. All private schools have to be recognised before they can start operation. Recognition is contingent upon meeting the minimum standard laid down in the Act Existing private schools have to meet the norms within three years of commencement of the Act. If they are not compliant after three years, they shall cease to function. Government schools under the central government have to meet only two conditions: the minimum qualification for teachers and the student-teacher ratio. For all state government schools and un-adided schools, the power to make rules is delegated to the state government. The central government circulated Model Rules for the RTE Act to the states. All state governments, except Goa, have notified the state RTE Rules. Delhi and Puducherry have also notified them. Most of the states have notified similar Rules with a few variations. We list some of the variations. Andhra Pradesh: The break-up of the 25% quota among the various disadvantaged groups have been included in the Rules. Scheduled Castes: 10%; Scheduled Tribes: 4%; Orphans, disabled and HIV affected: 5% and children with parents whose annual income is lower than Rs 60,000: 6%. Rajasthan: Private schools either have to be affiliated with a university or recognised by any officer authorised by the state government. Karnataka: In addition to the minimum norms under RTE Act, private schools have to comply with the Karnataka Education Act, 1983. Gujarat: If an existing recognised school is unable to meet the infrastructure norms it may be given the option of demonstrating that it achieved certain learning outcomes, both in terms of absolute levels and as improvement from previous years. Uttar Pradesh: The government shall pay per child reimbursement to the school after it gives a list of children with their Unique Identity Number and other details. Kerala: The local authority has to maintain a record of all the children (0-14 years) within its jurisdiction. It shall also maintain the Unique Identity Number of every child, as and when issued by the competent authority, to monitor his enrolment, attendance and learning achievements. Haryana: Defines textbooks, uniform and writing material. It states that Hindi is to be the preferred medium of instruction in all schools. For using other language, permission of Director, Elementary Education Dept is required (to be given within 45 days or deemed to be granted). West Bengal: The Rules give detailed definition of the appropriate age for each class. They require schools to be set up in a relatively noise-free and pollution-free area with adequate supply of drinking water and electricity. Existing schools (which are already recognised or affiliated with a Board) may get the local municipal authorities to provide infrastructural support including relaxation of building rules to comply with the requirements of the Act. Additional sources
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.