New Delhi: The ministry of human resource development (HRD) has proposed tribunals at the state and Central levels to deal with disputes in higher education, bringing it into conflict with the Planning Commission, said government officials, who did not want to be named.
The regulators will have the power to impose jail sentences and fines, according to the ministry.
Reform path: Kapil Sibal-led HRD ministry says the tribunals will speed up dispute resolution. Rajkumar / Mint
The Planning Commission said the move will result in a multiplicity of regulatory bodies given that the creation of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) is awaited.
NCHER, recommended by a committee headed by scientist Yash Pal, is to regulate higher education institutions and replace existing bodies such as the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
The educational tribunals, as proposed by the HRD ministry headed by Kapil Sibal, are expected to speed up the resolution of disputes, such as those relating to grievances of teachers and students.
The Planning Commission’s concern has been expressed in an internal note, signed by joint adviser (education) Shakila T. Shamsu, and forwarded to deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, which has been reviewed by Mint.
The note said several items of legislation being proposed by the HRD ministry raise the prospect of a plethora of statutory authorities, which is against the spirit of the Yash Pal committee recommendations.
It further said this will result in compromising the role of NCHER and a better idea would be to first set up the latter and then decide the course of reforms. A task force for the creation of NCHER has been constituted with two members of the Planning Commission.
The ministry is, however, going ahead with work on the legislation for setting up the tribunals, which it plans to introduce in the Budget session of Parliament. A group of ministers (GoM) headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has cleared the proposal to introduce the Bill.
“Some of the objections raised by the Planning Commission have been resolved,’’ said an HRD ministry official requesting anonymity. “Now that the GoM has cleared it, the Bill will sail through the next cabinet meeting, which is expected later this month.”
The matters to be taken up by the proposed tribunals include grievances related to deemed universities and affiliations.
In November, a committee appointed by the HRD ministry to assess deemed universities in the country said that out of 137 such institutions under review, most were found to be violating norms on faculty, infrastructure and academic courses.
AICTE, which licenses engineering, management and other technical courses offered by private colleges, has been under scrutiny for regulatory delays, red tape, restrictive policies, opaque functioning—and even bribery.
M.A. Siddiqui, chairman of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), said a specific body to deal with disputes could work in India, where the education sector is always expanding. “NCMEI is one example—dispute redressal is fast and more efficient,” he said.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, said India needs sweeping changes. “There is no point having a tribunal or an oversight mechanism such as NCHER unless reforms happen in the sector,” he said.