The Kerala Assembly on Tuesday passed the University Law (Amendment) Bill to replace Governor Arif Mohammed Khan as the chancellor of universities in the state, reported PTI.

Under the new legislation, the government will have the power to appoint academicians or “persons of eminence” in various fields of knowledge including agriculture and veterinary science, technology, medicine, social science, humanities, literature, art, culture, law or public administration, reported The Hindu.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front staged a walkout in protest against the refusal to accept all of the proposed amendments to the Bill and alleged that efforts were being made to turn universities into Marxist centres.

The move came amid the Left Democratic Front government’s escalating confrontation with Khan on the administration of state universities. The state Cabinet had on November 10 decided to request Khan to promulgate an ordinance removing him as the sole chancellor of the universities, so that renowned academicians can be appointed to the post.

During Tuesday’s Assembly session, the United Democratic Front said it was not opposed to the removal of the governor as chancellor, but said that it wants retired Supreme Court judges or former Kerala High Court chief justices to be considered for appointment at the universities.

The Opposition also suggested that there should be no appointment of different chancellors for each of the universities and that the selection panel should comprise the chief minister, leader of Opposition and the Kerala High Court chief justice.

However, Kerala Law Minister P Rajeeve highlighted certain legal hurdles in including the High Court chief justice in the panel during the discussion. The legislator instead proposed the inclusion of the Speaker in the panel that would be chaired by the chief minister and also have the Leader of the Opposition as a member, reported The Hindu.

Governor vs vice chancellors

On October 23, a controversy had erupted after Khan directed vice chancellors of nine state-run universities to submit their resignations, citing a Supreme Court verdict. The vice chancellors challenged the order in the High Court.

On October 24, the High Court allowed the vice chancellors to continue in their positions till a final order on the matter is passed by the governor on the basis of show cause notices.

At another hearing on October 25, the court directed Khan not to act against the vice chancellors to whom he had sent show cause notices until the judge hears the case.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had accused Khan of being a tool of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and alleged that the governor was waging a war with an intention to destroy universities in the state.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is the main constituent of the ruling Left Democratic Alliance, had also alleged that the governor’s action was a “Sangh Parivar conspiracy to weaken Kerala’s resistance against the saffronisation of the education sector”.