Education minister Bratya Basu on Friday said the government would examine the Constitution to find out whether the chief minister could be made chancellor of state universities, in place of the governor.
“We will examine the Constitution. If required, we will take legal opinion to find out, at least for the interim period, whether we can appoint the chief minister as the chancellor. We will explore the possibilities,” Basu said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
“If he (governor Jagdeep Dhankar) continues to take to Twitter and Facebook instead of working on areas associated with education, we will not accept this. He has become oblivious to the acts that are expected of his Chair.”
Later, the minister tweeted: “It is high time to introspect whether we should continue with the colonial legacy of the Governor being the Chancellor of Universities just by the virtue of his post or we should nominate eminent scholars and educationists as Chancellors.”
The immediate trigger for Basu’s comment might have been a tweet from the governor, the ex-officio chancellor of all state universities: “Education scenario @MamataOfficial worrisome as no Chancellor & VC of Pvt Univ turned up for meeting with Governor-Visitor. Shocking unionism.”
Dhankhar, Visitor of private universities in the state, had called the chancellors and vice-chancellors of the universities to a meeting at Raj Bhavan for the second time on December 23.
They had not turned up for an interaction at Raj Bhavan on December 20.
Dhankhar also posted a video that showed empty chairs bearing the names of the chancellors and the vice-chancellors.
An official in the education department said that in December 2019 the government had introduced rules allowing a state-run university to call a meeting of the senate without the governor’s nod.
The rules also state that the approval of the governor, who is chancellor of all state-run universities, will not be required for selecting candidates for honorary degrees.
“Already, the state has made rules under Section 17 of the West Bengal Universities and Colleges (Administration and Regulation) Act, 2017, to clip the chancellor’s power. Now, the minister will take legal opinion to find out whether the chief minister or any eminent scholar can be made the chancellor,” the official in the education department said.
The state government had introduced the rules after Dhankhar had in September 2019 said that only the chancellor, vice-chancellor and administrative bodies of a university, and “no one else”, had the right to run the daily affairs of the institute.
At Friday’s press conference, minister Basu accused Dhankhar of sitting on files and non-cooperation.
Sources said that in recent times the chancellor had sat on files on reappointment of VCs in state universities and only them signed at the last minute.
Earlier in the press conference Basu cited the example of Kerala to argue for appointment of chief minister as the chancellor.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on December 10 urged chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take over his duties as chancellor expressing strong resentment over appointments of university heads in a new line of confrontation with the Left Democratic Front government.
“We are just reiterating what the Kerala’s governor said,” Basu said.