DW Bureau / Chandigarh
The Punjab Government is set to put in place a mechanism to regulate private universities and educational institutions, in order to ensure quality education and protect the genuine interest of the students. Despite strong opposition from private universities, the Government has started drafting the Bill that would be brought before the State Assembly soon, it is learnt.
Top Government sources told Daily World on Wednesday that the State Government proposes to set up a Regulator that will have the powers to appoint an administrator for defaulting private universities. The Act will also provide for imposing a penalty on such universities, putting a ban on courses, and even dissolving a University by taking a decision at the Chief Minister’s level, in the case of serious irregularities.
“So far, there is no provision in the Act governing private universities in Punjab to take worthwhile action even if the government receives serious complaints. But the State cannot abdicate its responsibility of ensuring quality education. We are in the process of setting up the mechanism to regulate them,” a senior Government officer said.
There are as many as 17 private universities in Punjab, including Chitkara University, Rayat Bahra University, Desh Bhagat University and Chandigarh University that will fall under the purview of the proposed Regulator.
On the other hand, the argument put forth by private universities is that every private university in the State has been created by an Act of State Legislature. The basic tenet of the concept of universities the world over is that the university should have operational, financial and academic autonomy. “Any interference by the Government directly or through a statutory regulator will be against these cardinal principles,” said the Chancellor of a private university in Punjab.
In the past too, the Punjab Government had proposed to set up such a mechanism, but the move was scuttled at one level or the other. Sources said that a move to set up a regulatory mechanism was stalled after the Legal Remembrancer (LR) opined by giving a reference to an order passed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court, declaring the Act to set up a regulatory commission “unconstitutional”. However, the Supreme Court had later allowed the HP government to revive its regulatory commission to monitor 16 private universities and as many private institutes, especially engineering colleges.
“The LR had then given his opinion on the basis of the High Court order even though there are about 10 states in the country which already have a regulatory mechanism in place with regard to private universities. While Punjab’s Bill will not be too harsh on private universities, it will surely provide for a balanced mechanism to protect the interest of the students. A good regulatory mechanism will also help get more students to the state of Punjab,” remarked the officer.
He said the Government undertook several rounds of meetings for the finalisation of the draft Bill after studying the Acts passed by various state Assemblies. The same is likely to be brought before the Punjab Assembly soon.