Lok Sabha approves bill that gives Centre more say in IIMs
The bill was tabled by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan in the Lower House on July 28 but could not be taken up for discussion amid disruptions by the Opposition over the Manipur violence. It was passed by a voice vote on Friday
The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a bill that seeks to make the President of India “Visitor” at all Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), even as a few Opposition members raised concerns that the legislation 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 – empowers the “Visitor” to nominate the chairperson of the board of governors, oversee appointment as well as removal of directors, and audit the functioning of the institutes.
The government dismissed apprehensions that the legislation could see its interference with the autonomy of the institutes.
The bill was tabled by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan in the Lower House on July 28 but could not be taken up for discussion amid disruptions by the Opposition over the Manipur violence. It was passed by a voice vote on Friday.
There are 20 IIMs in the country.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Pradhan said the government has brought the legislation to ensure “management accountability” of IIMs and also asserted that it has “no intention of interfering with their autonomy”.
“The President of India is the Visitor to all the other top-ranking institutes, including the IITs, IISERS and the NITs, and never has a question been raised on the academic autonomy of these institutions. Similarly, in case of IIMs as well, we don’t have any intention of interfering with their autonomy, we are ensuring that in this House,” he said.
Pradhan also said that the 2017 IIM Act, which came into force in January 2018, empowered the IIMs to grant degrees for various courses as, until then, these institutes could only offer diploma and certificate courses after attaining the status of Institute of National Importance.
“However, over the past three-four years, it has been observed that these institutes did not comply with several constitutional obligations such as providing reservations to backward categories during the appointment of teachers or being accountable to the government’s GFRs (General Financial Rules) as well as its service conduct rules. These things have not been followed,” he said.
The 2017 IIM Act 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 that was cleared in the Lower House on Friday, however, seeks to nominate the President as “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.
Pradhan said the government has spent over ₹6,000 crore in setting up these institutions. “We have to ensure the government property should be converted into private prosperity. Therefore, the bill has been brought to fix the management accountability of these institutions. The academic autonomy of these institutes will remain intact,” he said.
During the debate, Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu of YSRCP said the bill has provisions incongruent with the aspect of institutional autonomy envisaged in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. “NEP was launched by the ministry three years ago, ensuring more autonomy and freedom to the institutes. But this bill is going in the opposite way..,” he said.
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. 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 proposed legislation intends to bestow extra obligations on to the President of India, one of which will be to serve as a ‘Visitor’ at all IIMs. This is a welcome step aiming to improve supervision and accountability, both of which are essential components of effective institutional governance. We hope that this new amendment supports the IIM’s sustained expansion and outstanding performance,” IIM-Raipur director Ram Kumar Kakani said.
IIM-Raipur Director Ram Kumar Kakani said, “The proposed legislation intends to bestow extra obligations on to the Hon’ble President of India, one of which will be to serve as a visitor at all Indian Institutes of Management. This is a welcome step aiming to improve supervision and accountability, both of which are essential components of effective institutional governance. We hope that this new amendment supports the Indian Institute of Management’s sustained expansion and outstanding performance.”