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Governor stands by decision to extend Anna varsity V-C's term

T. Ramakrishnan

Higher Education Department wanted the decision to be withdrawn

CHENNAI: Governor-Chancellor of Anna University, Chennai, Surjit Singh Barnala, has decided to stick to his decision of extending the term of office of Vice-Chancellor P. Mannar Jawahar, by one year.

About 10 days ago, the State Higher Education Department sent a communication to the Governor's Secretary, indicating that the decision may be withdrawn. The department was of the view that the term could be extended only after the expiry of the term.

The term of office of Prof. Jawahar, who was originally appointed Vice-Chancellor in June 2008, was to expire on June 26. On March 1, the Governor-Chancellor, through a demi-official letter, informed Prof. Jawahar of his decision to extend the term by one year. On June 27, Mr Barnala sent him another communication, directing him to continue in office till June 26, 2012.

An official in the Raj Bhavan says that the Governor has studied the issue from all angles and chosen to stand by his decision. A reply is being sent to the government, explaining the position of the Governor-Chancellor.

In his letters to the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Barnala invoked the section 11 (3) (a) of the law that governed the Anna University, Chennai, according to which “the Chancellor may direct that a Vice-Chancellor whose term of office has expired, shall continue in office for such period not exceeding a total period of one year, as may be specified in the direction.”

Even when the Governor's decision was originally taken in March, the Higher Education Department was peeved over the move, which, it argued, was against the spirit of the law.

The argument on the side of Governor-Chancellor is that he is well within his powers to take decisions on such matters. His decision was made in March in response to a letter from the Vice-Chancellor, who sought extension on the ground that the university had to play a crucial role in conducting counselling for the admission to engineering courses which was normally held around June-July. As the Model Code of Conduct for the Assembly elections was to come into force any time, the Governor-Chancellor was requested to take the decision immediately.

Another reason adduced by sources in the Raj Bhavan and Anna University is that unlike in other universities, there is no provision in the statute of the Anna University for the conveners' committee, which could take care of the day-to-day administration in the absence of a Vice-Chancellor. Besides, the Syndicate of the University is not in place, the Search Committee for the selection of Vice-Chancellor cannot be set up as it ought to have a nominee of the Syndicate. Also, a case is pending before the Madras High Court on the dissolution of the composition of the Syndicate.

But, those who do not agree with the decision that when the original decision was taken, there was enough time left for the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor [which became due in late June]. The Syndicate, which did not exist then, could have been constituted afresh in the intervening period. Subsequently, its nominee along with those of Governor-Chancellor and the government could have recommended three names for the post of Vice-Chancellor. [On June 19, 2010, the tenure of the composition of the Syndicate ceased to exist in view of the change of nature of the Anna University from affiliating to unitary.] Several months ago, the department had sent a proposal for the constitution of fresh Syndicate. They argue that there is no legal bar on the government to constitute a conveners' committee in respect of Anna University too, if at all there was a need. The government can invoke a provision (section 46 of the Anna University, Chennai, Act) to issue such a direction, besides resorting to residuary powers.

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