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Amended act calls for search body in VC hunt

A search panel will henceforth select candidates for the post of vice-chancellor at the West Bengal University of Health Sciences and the chancellor can “remove” a VC for “incompetence” or “association with any political party”, states a bill passed in the Assembly on Monday.

The amended bill rejects provisions in the West Bengal University of Health Sciences Act, 2002, passed when the Left Front was in power, that the VC has to be recruited by an executive council in consultation with the chancellor. The 2002 act didn’t have any clause on removal of the VC.

The West Bengal University of Health Sciences (Amendment) Act, 2013, states that a search committee will suggest three names in order of preference to the chancellor. A nominee of the chancellor will head the panel, comprising the president of the state medical council, a government representative, the chairman of the West Bengal State Council of Higher Education and the principal secretary of the health department.

“The executive council that used to select the VC had representatives of various medical colleges and government officials as members,” an official of the state health department said.

“From now on, the VC shall be appointed by the chancellor, in consultation with the health minister, from a short list of not less than three persons,” the official said, quoting the bill.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been holding the health portfolio since coming to power in 2011.

Vice-chancellor Amit Banerjee welcomed the amended act, saying it would ensure more involvement of the state health department in the university’s affairs.

All the medical and nursing colleges in the state are affiliated to the West Bengal University of Health Sciences.

Similar committees have been formed for all state universities, including Presidency, Jadavpur University, Calcutta University and the Bengal Engineering and Science University.

The new bill says an applicant for post of vice-chancellor and pro-VC must have 10 years’ experience in medical education, at least five years as professor.

The previous act didn’t lay down the minimum required years of experience. “Under the act passed by the Left Front someone with a postgraduate diploma could become a VC if the executive council wanted. The amendment ensures appointment of deserving candidates,” said Trinamul MLA Sudipto Roy.

Provisions allowing the chancellor to remove a VC or a pro-VC from office are new additions to the act.

The bill listed seven reasons for which a VC or pro-VC can be sacked.

  • If the chancellor finds the VC incompetent
  • f the VC is a member of, or otherwise associated with, any political party
  • If the VC acts in any partisan manner while discharging his/her duties

“Earlier, the university could get a new vice-chancellor only after the expiry of his/her tenure or if the post fell vacant because of death or if the incumbent VC resigned,” an official said.

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said the Trinamul has changed the act in order to push people close to the party into the committee. “This way, they can rest assured that someone who would toe the party line could be selected for the VC’s post.”