PUCL Bulletin,

February 1982

The Gujarat ordinance - More Government control of affairs of the universities.
-- By K. D. Desai

The Gujarat Government issued Ordinance No. 11 of 1981 on December 9, 1981 which amends acts of various universities in Gujarat. Its major thrust is to increase the powers of Vice-Chancellors at the cost of those of Executive Council, Academic Council, Senate etc. as well as to increase the Government's control in the affairs of the universities.

The major provisions of the ordinance are:

(a) Two ex-officio members (Governments officers) and four members appointed by the Government are added to the Executive Council. In the Gujarat University (which had three ex-officio members-two nominated members-one member nominated by the Vice-Chancellor), there will now be twelve members nominated by the Government and Vice-Chancellor out of the total strength of 27 members of the Executive Council. In other universities, there will be nine nominated members out of the 20 in the Executive Councils. Thus, the nominated members will be almost 40% of the total strength of the Executive Council.

(b) The Vice-Chancellors will not be required now "to report" to the Executive Council actions taken by them under their emergency powers. Earlier, it was necessary for them to report their actions to the Executive Council, the Academic Council, the Senate, the Board of Studies etc. Earlier it was mandatory for the Vice-Chancellor to implement the decision taken by these bodies within their respective jurisdictions.

(c) The Vice-Chancellor is given a power to override decisions by the Executive Council, the Academic council, the Senate, the Board of Studies etc. Earlier it was mandatory for the Vice-Chancellor to implement the decision taken by these bodies within their respective jurisdictions.

(d) The power to constitute panels of examiners is taken away from the Academic Council and the Executive Council and given to a small committee. Vice-Chancellor has power to override the recommendations of even this committee.

(e) The Vice-Chancellor has been given powers to suspend any teaching or non-teaching member of the university and this is put under his emergency powers.

It is apparent from the above that the ordinance will increase the Government interference and control in the University affairs and make the Vice-Chancellors all powerful and autocratic. This goes against the emerging national consensus in favour of increasing autonomy and democratisation of the Universities. The Radhakrishnan Commission, the Gajendra Gadkar Committee and the Kothari Commission at the national level as well as the Dongerkeri Commission and Palejwala Committee at the state level….all these recommended more autonomy and democratisation. Their thrust was towards reducing the nominated members in the university bodies and make them independent in their respective spheres. Thus, the university was envisaged as a loose federal structure of various bodies working autonomously in their respective fields. The present ordinance crates a threat serious to the university autonomy.

The government nominated Vice-Chancellors from the teacher associations sympathetic to the ruling party. Such Vice-Chancellors could not cope with the elected bodies at various levels. Particularly in the Gujarat University, the Vice-Chancellor made an appeal to the Supreme Court on the issue of mass promotion without consulting the Executive Council. Earlier some students had appealed to the Gujarat High Court against the decision of the Gujarat University to grant mass promotion to all students without examination. The High Court declared the action of the Gujarat University ultra vires and void. The University application for the review of the judgement in the High Court was also rejected.

Hence, the appeal to the Supreme Court. After taking this decision, the Vice-Chancellor could not face the Executive Council as he had no majority there. So he did not call a meeting of the Executive Council for 3 to 4 months and went on taking decisions under his emergency powers. A member of the Executive Council challenged this in the High Court and the Vice-Chancellor had to give an affidavit that he would call a meeting on December 12, 1981 and that he would not postpone it without the consent of the High Court, and would place before the Executive Council all the decisions taken by him under his emergency powers. In order to protect the Vice-Chancellor from the hostile Executive Council, the Government promulgated the present ordinance. It is a questionable use of its ordinance making power: to nullify the effect of the High Court judgement and to destroy the autonomy of all the universities in the state to help a Vice-Chancellor.

This ordinance has generated widespread discontent and opposition. To protest against it, a state-wide convention of educationists, teachers and intellectuals was organized in Ahmadabad on January 10, 1982.

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