Bill on IIMs tabled in LS; key clause could limit autonomy of institutes
The bill was introduced by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan amid disruptions by the Opposition over the Manipur violence.
The Union government on Friday tabled in Parliament a bill that proposes to make the President a visitor at all Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), with powers to nominate the chairperson of the board of governors, oversee appointment as well as removal of the directors, and audit the functioning of the institutions -- a move that could limit the autonomy of India’s premier business schools.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) (Amendment) bill 2023 -- which seeks to make amendments in the 2017 IIM Act -- was introduced by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan in the Lok Sabha amid disruptions by the Opposition over the Manipur violence. It is expected to come up for consideration and passage next week. There are 20 IIMs in the country.
The 2017 IIM Act, which came into force in January 2018, provides the institutes a higher degree of autonomy over its functioning, with a very limited role of the government. The board of governors of each institute, comprise 19 members, including one representative each from the central and state governments.
The bill tabled in the Lower House, however, seeks to nominate the President as the “Visitor” of each IIM, with complete power to “nominate the chairperson of the board of governors”, and also have its nominee in the search-cum-selection panel for the director’s appointment.
Currently, the chairperson of the board of governors is appointed by the board itself, from among eminent persons distinguished in the field of industry, education, science, technology, management and public administration among others.
The board of governors is the principal executive body of each IIM, and has the power to appoint search panels for appointments of new directors, take policy decisions, approve annual budgets and determine fees.
The concept of “Visitor” in IIMs was first introduced in the draft of the 2017 act released by the Centre in 2015. The idea was resisted by the institutes as it would “put a question mark on their said autonomous powers”. It was later removed from the final bill.
The President, however, is the “Visitor” of all central universities and IITs, and is empowered to appoint their vice chancellors and directors.
The bill also seeks to allow the central government to constitute an interim board in case of suspension and dilation of the current board of governors. It further makes it mandatory for the board to take “prior approval of the Visitor” to remove any director from office in case of any violation of norms.
“The services of the director may be terminated by the Visitor, in such manner as may be prescribed,” the bill, a copy of which HT has seen, says.
“The Visitor may appoint one or more persons to review the work and progress of any institute, to hold enquiries into affairs thereof and to report in such manner as the Visitor may direct. The board may also recommend to the Visitor, an enquiry as deemed proper against the institute which has not been functioning in accordance with provisions and objectives of the Act,” it adds.
As per the bill, the “Visitor” can also appoint the chairperson of the coordination forums of each IIMs. Such forums are responsible for promoting necessary coordination and cooperation in the working of the institutes, and reviewing the achievement of policy objectives.
The introduction of the bill comes at a time when the education ministry and IIMs are locked in a tussle over several issues. For instance, in 2020, the government had raised concerns over the one-year executive MBA degree offered by IIMs, saying it was not in accordance with UGC regulations. IIMs continued offering these degrees.
Last year, IIM-Rohtak reappointed its director for the second time, despite a controversy over the official’s academic credentials and the ministry’s opposition.
A former IIM director, requesting anonymity, said the proposed bill will “undermine the autonomy” being enjoyed by the institutes. “The appointment of the Visitor will give direct control to the government in the appointments of IIM directors and other policy decisions. However, some accountability was also needed since the IIM boards have been taking many arbitrary decisions of late ” he said.