Governors acting in their statutory capacity as University Chancellor are not bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
Key Rulings of Supreme Court
- While dealing with the case of the Vice-Chancellor, the Governor, being the Chancellor of the University, acts only in his personal capacity, and therefore, the powers and duties exercised and performed by him under a statute related to the University, as its Chancellor, have absolutely no relation to the exercise and performance of the powers and duties by him while he holds office as the Governor of the state.
- It is a well-settled (and indeed, bedrock) principle of administrative law that if a statute expressly confers a statutory power on a particular body or authority or imposes a statutory duty on the same, then such power must be exercised or duty performed (as the case may) by that very body or authority itself and none other.
- If the body or authority exercises the statutory power or performs the statutory duty acting at the behest, or on the dictate, of any other body or person, then this is regarded as an abdication of the statutory mandate and any decision taken on such basis is contrary to law and liable to be quashed.
- Rule of law requires that a statutory power vests in the body or authority where the statute so provides, and likewise, the discharge of the statutory duty is the responsibility of the body or authority to which it is entrusted.
- That body or authority cannot merely rubber-stamp an action taken elsewhere or simply endorse or ratify the decision of someone else.
Back to Basics
What is the role of the Chancellor in public universities?
- State public universities are established through laws passed by state legislatures. In most laws the Governor has been designated as the Chancellor of these universities.
- The Chancellor functions as the head of public universities, and appoints the Vice-Chancellor of the university.
- Further, the Chancellor can declare invalid, any university proceeding which is not as per existing laws.
- In some states (such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Jharkhand), the Chancellor has the power to conduct inspections in the university.
- The Chancellor also presides over the convocation of the university, and confirms proposals for conferring honorary degrees.
- This is different in Telangana, where the Chancellor is appointed by the state government.
- The Chancellor presides over the meetings of various university bodies (such as the Court/Senate of the university).
- The Court/Senate decides on matters of general policy related to the development of the university, such as: (i) establishing new university departments, (ii) conferring and withdrawing degrees and titles, and (iii) instituting fellowships.
Does the Governor have discretion in his capacity as Chancellor?
- In 1997, the Supreme Court held that the Governor was not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, while discharging duties of a separate statutory office (such as the Chancellor).
- The Sarkaria and Puunchi Commission also dealt with the role of the Governor in educational institutions.
- Both Commissions concurred that while discharging statutory functions, the Governor is not legally bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
- However, it may be advantageous for the Governor to consult the concerned Minister.
- The Sarkaria Commission recommended that state legislatures should avoid conferring statutory powers on the Governor, which were not envisaged by the Constitution.
- The Puunchi Commission observed that the role of Governor as the Chancellor may expose the office to controversies or public criticism. Hence, the role of the Governor should be restricted to constitutional provisions only.
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