IIM (Amendment) Bill 2023 Cleared by Lok Sabha, Govt Says ‘No Intention of Encroaching Autonomy’
The Indian Institutes of Management (Amendment) Bill, 2023, aimed at designating the President of India as the 'Visitor' to the prestigious business schools, was successfully passed in the Lok Sabha on Friday. Despite objections from the Opposition, who voiced concerns about potential encroachment on the autonomy of these renowned institutions, the bill was approved in the Lower House of Parliament. Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who presented the bill, responded to the Opposition's worries, assuring that the government had no intention of undermining the independence of the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management).
Pradhan emphasized that the IIMs hold the status of institutions of national significance, pointing out that the President of India serves as the Visitor to other top-tier institutes such as the IITs and NITs, without any challenge to their academic autonomy. He reiterated the government's commitment to preserving the autonomy of the IIMs within the parliamentary setting. He recalled that in 2017, the Union government empowered the IIMs to confer degrees for various courses, a departure from their previous authorization to offer diploma and certificate programs only.
Nonetheless, Pradhan acknowledged that over the past four years, there were instances where the IIMs did not fulfill certain constitutional obligations, including the provision of reservations for Backward categories during faculty appointments and adherence to government General Financial Rules (GFRs) and service conduct regulations.
The newly proposed bill, an amendment to the IIM Act of 2017, designates the President as the 'Visitor' to the IIMs, granting the President authority to conduct audits of their operations, initiate inquiries, and appoint or remove directors and chairpersons from their Board of Governors. However, faculty members and other stakeholders have expressed concerns that these changes could potentially weaken the institutions' autonomy.
Under the existing Act, the IIMs enjoyed a significant degree of independence through governance by their Board of Governors, comprised of 19 members, including representation from both central and state governments. The Board had the autonomy to appoint its chairperson and institute director.
Notably, the IIMs and the central government have been engaged in various disputes. In 2020, a conflict arose over the IIMs awarding one-year executive MBA degrees, which the government contested, citing University Grants Commission (UGC) rules that didn't permit degrees for courses lasting just one year. The IIMs, however, continued to grant these degrees despite government reservations.
Another point of contention was the reappointment of the director of IIM-Rohtak for a second term, despite concerns about the official's academic credentials, prompting opposition from the Education Ministry. A new procedure for forming search-cum-selection committees for appointing chairpersons was also proposed by the Ministry, met with resistance from the IIMs' administration.
In conclusion, the Indian Institutes of Management (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which designates the President as the 'Visitor' to the IIMs, has been approved by the Lok Sabha, despite concerns about potential impacts on the institutions' autonomy and ongoing disagreements between the IIMs and the central government on various matters.