HC order comes as breather for KSOU amid closure fears

Govt told to seek court's clarification before acting on techincal panel report

HC order comes as breather for KSOU amid closure fears

A High Court of Karnataka order has come as a major reprieve to the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), which is apprehending closure by the state government.

The high court on October 27 directed the state government not to initiate action on the recommendations of the Ratna Prabha committee, if any, without seeking the court's "clarification".

The government on October 12 constituted a technical committee headed by senior IAS officer Ratna Prabha to ascertain if the KSOU's funds and staff can be diverted to other varsities, and how. The government feels that the funds can be put for "good use", while the teaching and non-teaching staff should be repatriated as they were drawing a salary, despite having "no work".

This development has been hanging like a damocles sword over the KSOU, which is desperately seeking recognition from the University Grants Commission (UGC) from 2013-14 onwards.

Soon as the committee was set up, the KSOU Non-teaching Employees' Association reached out to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddi asking them to withdraw the committee.

When the duo failed to pay heed, the Association wrote to Governor Vajubhai Vala, and also moved the court.

Observing that there was no need to grant an absolute stay on the government notification (dated October 12), the court has said, "The committee constituted under the said order may proceed with regard to the work assigned under the terms of reference. However if any report is submitted, before a decision is taken on the same by the respondents (state government and the KSOU), appropriate clarification should be sought from the court."

The Association has argued that the government order is contrary to the provisions of the Karnataka State Open University Act, 1992 and the Board of Management of KSOU is directly reporting to and functions under the control of the Chancellor (governor and not the state government.

While the funds available with the KSOU were generated by the student fee and internal resources of the varsity, none of the employees were paid salaries/grants either from the government or the UGC.

It had also argued that the high court in its earlier order (Parappa Shankarappa & Others vs Secretary to the Government, Education Department) had said that the state government has no power to issue any direction to the universities with regard to the service conditions of the the employees.

The committee is yet to submit its report to the government.

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