Madurai Kamaraj University scandal: Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit’s probe panel raises legal questions

Meeting reporters on Tuesday, the Governor said the VC had appointed the committee without informing him.

Published: 19th April 2018 03:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2018 06:30 AM   |  A+A-

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit (File | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: While Governor Banwarilal Purohit has defended setting up a one-man committee to probe the Assistant Professor Nirmala Devi episode, the Madurai Kamaraj University Act 1965 does not confer any such powers on the Governor, it is pointed out. In the wake of alleged ‘sex-scandal’ surrounding Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), Banwarilal Purohit and Vice-Chancellor (VC) PP Chellathurai had both independently set-up committees to conduct investigation. However, the five-member committee set-up by the VC was withdrawn after the Governor set-up his one-man commitee comprising a retired IAS officer Santhanam.

Meeting reporters on Tuesday, the Governor said the VC had appointed the committee without informing him. However, the MKU Act does not confer power on the Governor to directly set-up the committee himself.“While the Chancellor is the ceremonial head of a University, it’s the VC who is the executive head,” said Tharasu Shyam, a former syndicate member of MKU. He further added, “Governor has a lot of discretionary power in several circumstances. However a Chancellor’s role is very limited.”  The powers and functions of a university Chancellor are more ‘de jure’ than ‘de facto’, he suggested.

Banwarilal Purohit

Under existing conventions, the Chancellor-Governor derives his power from every University Act passed by the State Legislature. The State Legislature is well within its right either to increase or decrease powers of Chancellor. His powers as well as functions under the University Act vary from university to university.
Powers of Governor as Chancellor of the University is defined under section 9 of the  Madurai Kamaraj University Act 1965.

According to the act, the Chancellor has the authority to appoint or nominate various candidates into the Senate, Syndicate or Academic Council. The Chancellor, as the head of the University can also preside over meetings of the senate and at any convocation of the University.The VC, termed the executive head, in case of an emergency can take required action after receiving sanction from either the Chancellor or the pro-chancellor KP Anbalagan -who is the Higher Education Minister of the State.

The committee could flout rules

The Governor’s move to appoint a one-man commitee has been largely criticised for having ignored several guidelines and regulations that have been issued in the interest of protecting women, their safety and identity. The University Grants Commission had notified in May 2002, that all colleges must set-up an Internal Complaint Committee and a ‘Special Cell’ to deal with gender based issues.

 “A presiding officer who shall be a woman faculty member employed at a senior level at the educational institution, nominated by the executive authority,” the notification states adding that two faculty and two non-teaching staff, preferably committed to the cause of women,  three students (if the matter involves students) and one social worker from an NGO, must be a part of the committee. The notification also mandates that at least one-half of this committee are women. The one-man committee appointed by the Governor, clearly does not meet this requirement.

When journalists raised this issue with the Governor at the press meet on Tuesday, he brushed it aside saying that Santhanam can take a woman’s help if he wants.Top sources in the Higher Education Department also said that the Governor had failed to set-up a fair committee by virtue of its lack of woman members. “While it is not illegal for the Governor to set-up a committee, in this particular case, the committee must be headed by a female candidate,” the source said.

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