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Overreach cry after Bengal governor comment

Only the chancellor, VC and the administrative bodies of a university have the right to run its day-to-day affairs: Jagdeep Dhankhar
Jagdeep Dhankhar
Jagdeep Dhankhar
(The Telegraph file picture)

Subhankar Chowdhury   |   Calcutta   |   Published 24.09.19, 11:41 PM

Only the chancellor, vice-chancellor and the administrative bodies of a university have the right to run its day-to-day affairs and “no one else”, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said on Tuesday.

The assertion by the governor, who is also the chancellor of all state universities, that “no one else” had the right to meddle in a university’s affairs made many academics conclude that he was asking the state government to stay away.


The academics also sniffed a hint of “overreach” by the chancellor in the statement.

The governor, who was in Siliguri on Tuesday, broached the topic while answering a question on why he had to go to Jadavpur University last Thursday to rescue Union minister Babul Supriyo, who had been barricaded by students for several hours.

“The statute (of a university) gives authority to the chancellor and the vice-chancellor in day-to-day matters (of the university). No one else has the authority under the act and I have studied all the acts of the universities, no one has (the authority). The role is only of the vice-chancellor and the chancellor and the bodies created thereunder. You have a court, the executive council,” Dhankhar said.

Education minister Partha Chatterjee, speaking as Trinamul secretary-general, had said Dhankhar had gone to the JU campus ignoring pleas by the chief minister that “the Governor being the constitutional head need not go at this moment”.

According to the Jadavpur University Act, 1981, an official of the institute said, the VC is not required to consult the chancellor on running day-to-day affairs. “The VC enjoys ample authority to run the university through various bodies,” the official said.

A section of academics said if the governor got involved in running the day-to-day affairs of a university, it could amount to “overreach”.

“Like the state government, the chancellor, too, is supposed to stay away from the daily functioning of a university. Although the chancellor is the appointing authority, the VC can only consult the chancellor in matters of exigency,” a retired registrar of JU said.

A former vice-chancellor of another university, however, said Bengal VCs “do not consult the chancellor on matters they are expected to and, instead, take help of the state government, disrupting the chain of command”.

He cited the example of Abhijit Chakrabarti’s resignation as JU vice-chancellor on January 11, 2015.

“Chakrabarti stepped down in the face of a sustained students’ protest. He was supposed to convey his decision to quit to the chancellor. Instead, he communicated the decision to chief minister Mamata Banerjee through a text message. The chief minister read out the message before the protesting students,” the former VC said.

A VC said the chancellor had on September 4 asked the heads of all state universities at a meeting at Raj Bhavan to go through the statutes and find out whether the laws said anything on developing a mechanism for direct communication between the chancellor and the VCs.

The Mamata Banerjee government has made several changes to the statutes governing the state universities to ensure the government has a say in crucial matters, including appointments.

“However, the sections related to the powers and duties of the vice-chancellor have not been altered,” an official at JU said.

The act states: “The vice-chancellor shall be the principal executive and academic officer of the university.... The vice-chancellor shall have the power to exercise general control and supervision over all the officers of the university and all the teachers and generally over all the affairs of the university.…”

Trinamul Congress secretary-general Partha Chatterjee, who is also education minister, had issued a statement hours after the chancellor left the JU campus alleging that he had gone there despite the chief minister’s advice against it. “Honourable governor went there without taking the state government into confidence. On his way, he rang up the CM. CM requested him several times that the Governor being the constitutional head need not go at this moment. The CM requested him to give the government some time to peacefully solve the issue. But instead of taking the government into confidence, the governor went there to help BJP,” Chatterjee wrote.

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