CUTTACK: The controversy over the Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act has taken a new turn with the State government claiming in the Orissa High Court that it is not bound to follow the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations in its entirety.
In an affidavit, the government said that the UGC regulations are binding on the state governments to a limited extent of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education.
The State legislature is empowered to enact laws prescribing higher standards of education than that provided under the UGC regulations.
Laws enacted by the State legislature cannot be struck down unless they prejudicially affect the standard of education, the affidavit said.
The amended Act has been at a centre of storm as it seeks to bring appointment to important academic and administrative posts in the universities, including recruitment of teaching staff, under complete State government control.
While it changed the selection committee composition for selection of vice chancellors of universities, the teacher recruitment will be done by the Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC).
The Higher Education department filed its response to the affidavit that UGC had filed in response to the notices issued by the Court on two separate PIL petitions.
Retired Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University Ajit Kumar Mohanty and Professor of Utkal University Kunja Bihari Panda had filed the two petitions, challenging the constitutional validity of the Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act, 2020 which was notified on November 9 last year.
Taking a stand against the Act, the UGC affidavit said that it was in conflict with the UGC Regulation-2018 issued under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.
In the affidavit Higher Education Department Deputy Secretary Surya Narayan Mohapatra claimed that the stand of UGC is limited to the Amendment Act dealing with the appointment of vice chancellors and teaching staff of the universities.
He said the UGC has not opposed the other amendments made vide the Odisha University (Amendment) Act, 2020.
“Recruitment of teaching/ research staff through the OPSC will usher in greater transparency and ensure that the best candidates are selected”, Mohapatra claimed.
By way of the Amendment Act, the State government had changed the composition of the selection committee for recommendation of names to the Chancellor (Governor of Odisha) for appointment to the post of vice chancellor.
But no change was made in the standard and qualifications required for the post.
“A change in the composition of the selection committee, also does not prejudicially affect the standards of education as prescribed by the Parliament”, the Deputy Secretary further claimed. The Court has fixed August 4 for hearing on the matter.